|Topic:||Open connectivity for roaming and interworking|
|Author:||Eugene Bergen Henegouwen|
|Title:||Vice President & Managing Director, EMEA|
Eugene Bergen Henegouwen is the Vice President and Managing Director of Syniverseís EMEA operations. Mr Bergen Henegouwen has held a variety of high-tech executive level positions in the United States and The Netherlands. Prior to joining Syniverse, he was CEO and Chairman of Invention Machine Corporation; CEO and President of AVIO Digital Inc.; and CEO of Philips Creative Display Solutions in the Netherlands. Mr Bergen Henegouwen also held senior level management positions with Philips Consumer Electronics, Business Electronics, and Philips Telecommunications and Data Systems. Mr Henegouwen holds a Masterís Degree and bachelorís degree in electrical engineering from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.
The costly and time-consuming practice of operators negotiating bilateral roaming and interworking agreements with each other, and undertaking a multitude of activities to commission each relationship, may soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to the GSM Associationís new Open Connectivity initiative, global hubbing is already a reality for SMS interworking. Hubbing is poised to open up a wealth of new revenue opportunities, with less infrastructure investment, to enable roaming subscribers access to innovative new services around the globe.
While roaming rates have stolen the headlines recently in Europe, another roaming revolution has been quietly taking place behind the scenes. In April 2005, the GSM Association, GSMA, announced the launch of its open connectivity project, an ambitious initiative aimed at replacing multiple bilateral roaming relationships between operators with a more efficient hub-based structure. So what is the need for change? Put simply, the mobile industry has outgrown the current system of brokering individual agreements between operators who operate on the international stage. As mobile telephony has spread across the world, the current model has become a victim of its own success, and the system that once served operators well is now a complicated, expensive burden. In todayís environment, most operators who wish to establish the technical and business relationships necessary for global roaming and mobile service interworking must spend a considerable amount of time and resources brokering bilateral agreements. A bilateral agreement is required for each single service a network operator offers in order to ensure subscribers are able to use that service while roaming on another operatorís network. The bilateral agreements also facilitate various business issues, such as roaming; clearing and settlement. Having negotiated the bilateral agreements, a complex and comprehensive set of procedures serves to actually implement each of the bilateral relationships. Some of these activities include the initial exchange of operator and network information, testing SIM cards distribution, testing plans definition, signalling network design/planning, signalling solution implementation, roaming data implementation, IREG, International Roaming Expert Group, and TADIG, Transferred Account Data Interchange Group, tests scheduling and execution, and commercial launch. Each of these functional areas have an entire set of associated tasks and activities that are performed repetitively every time a new roaming service or new roaming partner has to be introduced. Fortunately, help is on the way in the form of open connectivity. Seeking to simplify global roaming for mobile operators at both the technological and business level, open connectivity encompasses network connectivity, testing, agreement management, quality of service and all the other functions necessary for roaming. This initiative is about increasing efficiencies and overcoming limitations in each of the functional areas involved so that operators experience radically improved time-to-market for new services, as well as drastically reduce costs and complexities when implementing new roaming relationships. So how does it work? The new structure currently being implemented by the GSMA means that operators will only have to connect once to a hub to have the ability to reach all the other networks connected to that same hub. They also will be able to reach operators connected to other hubs via interconnect arrangements between the various hubs. At the same time, the system maintains the independence of operators by allowing each to determine its own pricing structures and financial arrangements or even the ability to opt out of a particular relationship should the operatorsí desire. Open connectivity Part of this work during the development and testing phase of the GSMAís project involved developing a set of characteristics to which the new hubbing model should adhere, including: ï simplify and automate the contractual process for adding new operators to the hub, thus permitting new and emerging operators to be added quickly to the international domain; ï provide for testing of new operators at multiple levels – including network, services and standards compliance – and provide a method for them to review and accept wholesale agreements and build-in appropriate discounts; allow operators to exclude working or interconnecting with other operators if desired, or offer peering interconnects with operators or hub providers as needed; ï support roaming, multiple-service interworking, and clearing and settlement; ï support the business intelligence needed to ensure quality of service and SLA parameters are being met; ï provide measures to prevent or identify fraud, spamming and spoofing for both roaming and interworking; and, ï offer the operators flexibility by providing support for SS7-based, IP-based and hybrid hubbing. From concept to reality The project has already begun its transition from concept to reality. Eight roaming hub solution providers took part in the initial roaming hub proof-of-concept testing conducted with a raft of leading mobile operators, including Bharti-Airtel, Proximus, Cellcom, Rogers Wireless, CTM, Teletalk, Hong Kong CSL and Viking Wireless. On the messaging interworking side of open connectivity, the second phase of the SMS hubbing trial was successfully completed in September 2006. It involved 26 operators in more than 20 countries on four continents as well as 13 SMS hub providers. Following successful trials by the GSMA and its partners in 2006, an SMS hubbing infrastructure is already up and running. Based on the successful MMS, Multimedia Messaging Service, hub-based approach already used for MMS interworking by over 110 network operators across 58 countries, the SMS project has been hailed as a successful proof of concept of the GSMAís wider open connectivity initiative. The positive results from the SMS trial, in terms of improving network efficiencies and reduced time, expense and headaches for interworking, suggest that not only does centralized hubbing support SMS effectively, it also has the ability to support multiple service domains. Next on the GSMAís agenda is a roaming hub. Following extensive testing, the first trials are scheduled to take place in the second half of 2007 as another stepping stone towards full open connectivity and a hubbing model that addresses all the interconnection, interworking, interoperability and roaming needs of todayís mobile operators and other hub providers. Open connectivity trends A number of future trends in mobile communication will, in the long term, serve as the basis for bridging the traditional world of mobile services with the all-IP world that works perfectly with the open connectivity model: New IP-based mobile services Since open connectivity removes the need to establish new agreements and perform an entire set of complex procedures every time an operator introduces a new service, open connectivity will result in quicker rollout and introduction of new roaming and interworking services. Getting roaming and interworking services to the market quickly helps operators reduce costs, increase ARPU, reduce churn and offer greater value to their subscribers. Established operators will gradually migrate to the hubbing model. We already see an increasing number of operators working with the GSMA and with other operators to test the ability of the hubs to provide high-quality interworking and roaming services. New, smaller or alternative operators will directly embrace the open connectivity hubbing model. As an initial stepping stone toward full open connectivity across a broad spectrum of services, hub providers will help make high-quality hubbing solutions available to new or smaller operators so they can quickly and inexpensively offer global reach to their subscribers for myriad services. Global interoperability will increase. Open connectivity promises roaming hubbing for all, allowing operators to seamlessly interoperate with their counterparts to build businesses that serve the global subscriber community using different technologies. Benefits If open connectivity is not embraced, the significant expense and resources required to create, manage and expand current bilateral arrangements will only multiply as even more costly agreements and capital expenditures are required to satisfy subscribers who demand worldwide roaming and access to all their services while roaming. Fortunately, many of the solutions needed to support operators in this new reality are already in place or just around the corner. Vendors already offer a number of hubbing solutions for both SMS and MMS interworking. There are also roadmaps that allow the vendors to deliver an open, converged services hub – a global platform – in which standardized interfaces provide operators with a central point of connectivity and service interchange with other operators, relieving them of the need to invest considerable time and money managing a slew of ancillary details such as agreement management, implementation and testing, network monitoring and reporting, and billing settlement and clearing. Without a doubt, open connectivity is the future of the telecommunications industry in its quest to find a new way of doing business that addresses the interconnection, interworking, interoperability and roaming needs of all telecommunications customers for all technologies and services, both old and new, across any geographic border.