Ahead of the signaling show (who knew?) that starts tomorrow … I have been noticing a flood of information including various press releases about LTE roaming. I don’t have much that I can say publicly other than what I can observe in the public domain. So I wanted to point out some recent examples.
As you may or may not know, there’s some real challenges to LTE roaming around the radio interface, such as the ability of a device to operate everywhere based on radio bands supported, other than that, nearly all other big issues are primarily in the business domain if you exclude VoLTE for the moment. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of the public info out there regarding LTE roaming.
Firstly, why LTE roaming? Simple, there are LTE subs nearly everywhere now. Chart above shows something like 100M now. Unlike 3G with the different flavors, this is interesting because multiple (or greater number of) networks could potentially host foreign subs in a given location and since the subs are substantially on a single standard, a greater number to deal with.
As you can probably guess, there are 3 domains the situation exists in. Firstly is from the network standards point of view. 3GPP and others have been working on filling in the gaps to help the situation. Release 9 and 10 fix some roaming holes in the standard (actually just standardized the fixes) and go a long way. Beow Sybase has a network diagram for your viewing pleasure. You may recognize that Diameter is a key protocol between the networks and it’s relatively new into the marketplace. Verizon and others are still discovering the ins and outs of using it.
The second domain is the network OEM perspective. There are several players in this space like Sybase, Diametriq, and Syniverse to name a few. They offer products to assist with the roaming infrastructure and or provide hosting services to enable it.
For example, here is an interesting slide deck describing a Diameter Signaling Controller from Diametriq. Notice the comments about operator challenges and the complexity just within the diameter protocol universe.
And Syniverse announces hosted Diameter services…
Outside of that there is 3G roaming that already has lots of glue in place. It gets complicated when considering that LTE networks can communicate much easier over the wire to each other, however using a completely different protocol set and network topology than what is in place, yet the 3G fallback is highly desirable (Voice or edge data coverage.
Ultimately having some service providers go first will help to accelerate the LTE roaming marketplace in general.
The final domain of LTE roaming challenge belongs to the UE. The recently launched iPhone5 and iPads do have LTE, which will increase demand based on their historical popularity, however these devices are based on Qualcomm RTR8600 technology limitations that do not facilitate a single chipset for all bands, therefore there are different models that can use different sets of spectrum. Sysbase’s William Dudley recently posted about the iPhone5 and roaming in:
Smith Micro Software is offering something in this space, a mobile based solution that focuses the smartphone on using WiFi to offload and presumably avoid roaming over LTE.
Full Syniverse PR below…