|Issue:||Asia-Pacific I 2013|
|Topic:||IPX in Next Generation Networks|
|Title:||VP Mobile Data Business|
Mikaël Schachne is the VP Mobile Data Business, at BICS. Mr Schachne joined the international division of Belgacom in 2001 which was spun-off and merged a few years later with Swisscom International and MTN International. After having successfully led the product development and management of new international mobile data services such as Signalling, GPRS Roaming eXchange (GRX), SMS & MMS Hubbing, Instant Roaming and Open Connectivity Roaming Hubbing, Mr Schachne is now in charge of the Mobile Data Business at BICS. Mr Schachne previously worked for Winstar Europe and Mobistar where he gained extensive expertise in the implementation of telecommunications networks in the fields of GSM, GPRS, Wireless Local Loop, IP and SS7.
Mikaël Schachne graduated from the Brussels University Applied Science Faculty in Belgium as a Civil Electrical Engineer specialised in Electronics and Telecommunications; he also holds a master in Business-to-Business Marketing from the Vlerick Management School in Leuven (Belgium).
IPX (Internetwork Packet Exchange) is a communications protocol devised by the GSM Association to replace legacy TDM (Time Division Multiplex) and ease the transition to IP (Internet Protocol) for VoIP and IP-based video and multimedia. IPX’s ability integrate IP interconnect and roaming with existing services, has made it a vital to many LTE rollout strategies. With a single interconnection, mobile operators can exchange all their IP traffic to any IPX destination, prioritise their critical traffic and provide end-to-end quality management.
As operators continue to migrate to Long Term Evolution (LTE) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) based networks, all-Internet protocol (IP) networks are increasingly becoming a reality. The Asia-Pacific region is at the forefront of this new industry trend with operators in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Korea and Japan already adopting these technologies.
This transition is compelling operators to assess their ability to take advantage of this network evolution. Operators now need to consider how best to monetise new services. At the same time they must guarantee their quality of service by effectively utilising valuable spectrum and preventing network congestion. Equally, operators need to find a way to enhance their interconnects if they want to support new and upcoming services, such as HD video and VoLTE (voice over LTE). IPX technology presents operators with the most effective solution to these manifold challenges.
Mobile data goes ‘over the top’ (OTT)
Over the top (OTT) players are gradually becoming more of a force in the industry, catering to increased demand for new and improved data services. Research by Ovum recently predicted that the international voice retail market could disappear entirely, given the continued development of Voice over IP (VoIP) services. Essentially, end users will no longer be prepared to pay for traditional voice services. With OTT service providers use public Internet for transport so they do not need to pay separately for international transit and termination. When end users can access low cost OTT services, incumbent operators will no longer be in a position to offer higher-cost services. The rise of the OTT player is increasingly forcing operators to adopt new and innovative ways to stay in the game.
Despite their large numbers, early adopters of Internet VoIP services have not been particularly demanding. Consumers regularly perceive problems with sound quality and even dropped calls as unavoidable everyday occurrences. However, the introduction of LTE is likely to transform subscriber expectations, providing revolutionary levels of service quality and performance. Mobile subscribers are increasingly aware of device capabilities and knowingly pay for enhanced sophistication, improved quality and seamless access to reliable data services. If operators fail to properly define and price their services in this new market, it is likely that end users will begin to look elsewhere to satisfy their demand for better connectivity.
IPX – bridging the gap
User-critical services like VoIP are forcing a transformation in wholesale business models, generating additional costs and complexities for those running IP and Time Division Multiplex (TDM) in parallel. Time Division Multiplex has long been able to support voice and messaging, but with the imminent rollout of LTE networks, it is vital to integrate IP interconnection and roaming into existing service portfolios.
The GSM Association devised IP exchange (IPX) to replace legacy TDM and support the introduction of IP-based voice, video and real time multimedia applications. Video Conferencing and other sophisticated data-based services are increasingly seen as decisive business enablers by global organisations. When using this kind of service it is imperative that subscribers experience the highest levels of quality and performance. The ability to deliver robust interworking and roaming capabilities is now essential to meeting this demand.
IPX offers any service provider a solution to this challenge. For fixed operators, IPX is relevant since next generation networks (NGNs) are powered by IMS. Their soft-switching architectures and the majority of real-time applications cannot be delivered reliably over legacy technology or a ‘best effort’ public Internet. IPX also allows mobile operators to work in tandem with OTT players, allowing them to enter into mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships. Mobile operators should now be urging OTT players to interconnect with them via IPX. With this partnership, mobile operators can generate new revenues from their LTE networks, whilst OTT players can offer services with high quality levels. The ultimate success of mobile data services will undoubtedly depend on collaborations such as this.
Delivering quality through transport and hubbing
IPX transport is one of the key new features that IPX technology offers. Essentially it combines the flexibility and efficiency of IP systems, with the high quality levels of TDM. Mobile operators can now exchange bilateral IP traffic (voice, video, messaging, LTE traffic, etc) with any IPX destination, through a single interconnection. IPX offers end-to-end quality management, including for peering. IPX can prioritise real-time and critical traffic and bar background traffic from using resources higher priority traffic needs.
In addition to bilateral transport, IPX enables access to multilateral hubbing services, such as next generation voice and LTE Diameter. These services are all available on the same interconnection infrastructure. IPX hubbing allows multilateral, transparent outsourcing of efficient interworking, and financial settlement and monitoring between IPX connected service providers. For example, IPX hubbing can connect two service providers who are using different signalling protocols, codecs, or both. This level of interworking is a significant challenge when using simple bilateral transport.
For roaming, IPX hubbing combines global voice switching and signalling management capabilities in order to maximise the quality of service experienced by the roaming subscriber. Using a third party managed service to facilitate roaming and interconnect with operators worldwide is a more cost effective strategy for the Asia-Pacific carriers. Although it is important for operators to select a third party managed service with a global reach they should also ensure that it has it has operations and infrastructure in the region that offers local support.
Delivering interconnectivity – a critical business enabler
IPX can play a key role in allowing service providers of voice, HD voice/video, LTE roaming and other high quality IP applications to interwork seamlessly. IPX guarantees a quality customer experience by delivering high-speed data and low latency. IPX also lets mobile operators move away from the bit pipe model for roaming services. With LTE technology, an entire ecosystems is available (handsets, visited network equipment, policy and charging control in the home network etc) to help mobile operators provide differentiated data roaming quality of service, based on the service actually used. IPX guarantees quality of service at the interconnect level between the visited and the home network. The result is that customers who require the very best quality of experience for their applications are satisfied and mobile operators can justify charging for the added value that they deliver.
IPX enables operator interconnectivity through a global, converged network of service providers. As the introduction of LTE gives rise to a wave of new applications from a diverse base of providers, this ability to interconnect will reduce time to market, cut costs and facilitate the building of revenue streams through collaboration. IPX is inexpensive to install, is fast and easy to deploy and new interconnects can be rapidly established; an essential advantage, since interconnecting is not an optional extra for operators – it is a critical business enabler. However, it is imperative that operators select an IPX provider that possesses a broad expertise in IP data services, voice services and roaming. It is only through an IPX provider with a comprehensive suite of services that an operator can look to effectively address the many challenges posed by the rapid rise of all-IP networks and OTT players. While global reach remains an important factor, it is also imperative that operators in the Asia-Pacific region select an IPX provider that can also provide local support and consultancy.