April 17, 2014

Benefits of Connecting to IPX Networks (An Operators View)

LTE networks are growing at a fast rate, more than 200 networks in three years have been deployed.

IPX (IP Exchange) enables three key aspects for an operator:

  • A Seamless roaming experience

  • Achieving Scale

  • Increased Services

IPX is not just a network to interconnect operators, it is also a cloud based platform to add new services such as VoLTE and RCS (Rich Communication Suite).

Most high level managers in the Telcos agree on one thing when asked about the benefits that IPX brings to the business. They all need a higher quality of service standard and a well-defined network to carry different kinds of applications and services driven by the end users needs and expectations.

IPX connection refers to multiple layers of service, rather than just a voice connection, an IP connection or an SMS connection as an alone. IPX also means sufficient capacity for reaching a critical-mass in coverage.

The IPX world might be linked to the concept of a roaming hub, it is about a central point for many services. One could say that today it is not really clear to find anyone (provider) creating that ‘’critical-mass’’ where an operator can get the reach needed to satisfy their target coverage and at the same time, avoiding needing more than two IPX-to-IPX transit points. Once you start adding, getting three IPXs in the chain means you are missing the benefits of not having direct connectivity as it used to be in the bilateral scenario to meet the needs of the business ecosystem in which they operate.


GRX providers can upgrade to IPX platforms, but they will struggle to keep up with LTE data demand compared to facilities-based IPX service providers.

The Benefits most operators are waiting for

When surveyed, CTO’s from influential mobile operator groups have three main drivers to launch an RFP to retain an IPX: Privacy, Security & QoS.

Other factors to consider when selecting the right IPX provider are:

  • Skillsets for easy and fast deployment. How good are they at working with multiple customers and variety of different objectives such as, providing innovative communication services with better quality and features as well as providing differentiated services against OTTs’ VoIP services, reduced setup times, audio quality with the possibility of wider codecs, and the possibility of implementing voice with more services such as video or RCS.

  • Guarantees Interconnection with multiple operators

  • Achieves operational cost savings

  • Ability to offer and demand end-to-end SLAs depending on the place you occupy in the value chain

  • Flexibility in Diameter signalling routing options and guaranteed Diameter signalling interoperability


LTE Roaming

SS7 has been used for 20 years, so it is a significant challenge to move to a complete new protocol.

For operators to use the Diameter protocol it demands integrating their equipment at the interconnection level. However, LTE data roaming will be the main driver in the immediate future. Physical interconnects between roaming partners need to be re-forged from scratch, using a relatively new protocol.

Worldwide mobile data traffic set to increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017, reaching 11.2 exabytes (11.2 billion gigabytes) per month. According to Cisco Systems’ Visual Networking Index, Telcos are under pressure to address data service delivery not only on their own networks, but beyond them via roaming services. Complicating the issue is the fact that most mobile operators have to support roaming for all-IP services while still supporting legacy voice, SMS and data services at home and abroad. The mobile industry’s default solution to the problem is the concept offered by the IPX which was spearheaded by the GSM Association that promotes common specifications for end-to-end IP traffic delivery and quality of service that gives operators a cost-effective way to manage LTE services across networks.

What are the rules now and in the immediate future?

The Diameter signalling protocol is used for coordination between IP network elements such policy servers, online charging systems and mobility gateways. Diameter plays a crucial role in mobility and as operators have migrated networks to LTE, added new services and implemented more sophisticated policy use cases, signalling volumes are skyrocketing.

Operators moved from the older RADIUS, MAP and CAMEL interfaces to the newer, more sophisticated Diameter signalling protocol. Examples of service plans for subscribers (such as new charging models) can be categorized as follows.

  • Tiered services

  • Shared data plans

  • Casual usage and loyalty programs

  • “Toll-free” or sponsored data usage

  • Mobile advertising

  • Quality enhanced over-the-top (OTT) applications and content

  • Cloud and machine-to-machine (M2M) services

Operators will need a robust Diameter network in place to manage signalling traffic increases resulting from more frequent and longer data sessions, video downloads and complex charging rules and policy.

Statistics to illustrate the LTE landscape:

  • LTE penetration, North America is leading with 56%, today is the largest LTE market.

  • JAPAC –Japan and Asian countries- 11% in second place. There’s a significant room for growth

  • By 2017 more than 10 billion devices will process more than 300 billion app downloads worldwide.

  • The notion of “busy hour” will evolve, volumes to be driven by subscriber behaviour rather than time, the devices they use and services apps they invoke will determine the traffic levels. Signaling traffic peaks and valleys will not occur at the same time of the day.

  • The pace of Diameter signalling growth will increase as operators evolve to all-IP networks. Even though Diameter is used in 3G networks as well as LTE, SS7 signaling is still heavily employed in 3G environments.

  • Signaling traffic is growing at twice the speed of mobile data.

  • WiFi roaming, once standards have been completed, WiFi roaming will begin to offset the 3G decline, (in low levels). Due to its high LTE penetration, North America will have the lowest per capita 3G – LTE roaming traffic of all regions.

  • Mobility is projected to reach 3.5 million MPS (messages per second) by 2017, a CARG of 84% in JAPAC. Developing countries continue to maintain their 3G networks while they roll out LTE in metropolitan areas. LTE will be adopted slowly due to subscriber buying behaviour still heavily favour feature phones.

In conclusion, if you are in the supplier side of the ecosystem, and you plan to keep your business in good shape exploiting the potential of mobility and satisfying your customer hunger for being connected, accessing content and information before each one of his daily activities take place on the move, then think twice, you need to upgrade your network before the tsunami of signalling traffic takes over.

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April 17, 2014