April 9, 2024

Adding Automation to Improve Roaming Quality

Rising Complexity in Roaming

Roaming Complexity is rising. MNOs are adopting emerging technologies such as 5G and VoLTE,however they must also continue to support legacy technologies. There is a growing diversity of device types, particularly driven by IoT. IoT devices present diverse needs and behaviors compared to standard handsets or consumers. Additionally, the range of use cases is increasing. Not all customer segments have the same needs, but we must manage their needs to ensure satisfaction.

All of this means that roaming complexity is increasing significantly. That being said, our resources to manage this complexity (i.e. budgets and resourcing) are not increasing in parallel. Considering these challenges, adding automation could be essential for effectively addressing the increasing complexity of roaming management.

Using SoR for Automation of Issue Resolution

To better tackle rising complexity, we must do a lot more with a lot less. Hence, automation is the key to achieving this and reducing dependency on our dwindling resources. We must identify areas where we can automatically resolve roaming issues and free up our precious resources to work on more important challenges. Steering of Roaming is the main point of control available to operators to influence the roaming experience their customers have. Because of this, it is the central aspect of this automatic issue resolution.

Evolution of Roaming

Fifteen years ago, roaming and Steering of Roaming (SoR) wasn’t very difficult. Once a subscriber got registered to a network and had voice and SMS service that was, more or less, the entirety of the service.

Nowadays, however, the quality of this roaming experience is impacted by multiple factors. The evolution of intense data usage coupled with various technologies surrounding these network implementations has driven this. Of course, a steering system will still ensure you get to the VLR, SGSN, or MME and that’s a good start. However, after this initial attachment takes place, the subscriber must still establish a GTP tunnel to use data. Afterward, they should establish another GTP tunnel to the IMS for VoLTE, register with the IMS for VoLTE using SIP, and so on. Failures in any of these areas will lead to service issues for the subscriber.

Identifying Areas for Automation

All of these are new possible failure points that steering doesn’t typically manage but the roamer will perceive them as a poor-quality service. This will affect the MNO’s bottom line as subscribers are not using services in roaming as they are getting poor or even no service  and  loads on customer and technical support is increased. For MNOs with extensive high-value enterprise roaming customers, this is an area of concern, as VIP roamers demand instant, high-quality service.

Roaming quality control has traditionally depended on Global Roaming Quality (GRQ) metrics. These metrics provide some insight into the relative quality offered by each Roaming Partner network. This data is useful, but rarely provides enough per-subscriber detail to address the new challenges we face today:

  • Oftentimes, probes gather these metrics in the country – these do not capture the diversity of service in different geographic locations
  • Probes also do not capture the diversity of device types – the service on the probe will not necessarily reflect the service experienced by an IoT device
  • GRQ metrics typically operate on a network level – but not all subscribers are equal. Different segments have different needs, and quality is perceived differently by different segments of subscribers/devices.

Moving Towards Automation for Per-Subscriber Resolution

Therefore, it is essential to achieve per-subscriber resolution. A one-size-fits-all approach to quality is not sufficient to manage the quality needs of all segments.

MNOs often have analytics and usually have good functionality. The issue is that these analytical systems are passive by design. Hence, they might highlight issues, but they don’t actively correct them.

An automated per-subscriber resolution approach will improve the roaming experience and quality immensely. It uses APIs to turn roaming analytics into triggers for automated actions, ensuring quality service.

This is where automation via Event Driven Steering from Cellusys plays a hugely beneficial role.

What is Event-Driven Steering

Roamers face specific challenges at specific times. Quality service must focus on all of these specificities.
This is what Cellusys advocates for as the optimal steering approach. We classify this in two ways via:

1 – Preemptive Steering
2 – Corrective Steering

Pre-emptive steering is where we make an upfront decision

For the home network, the steering system must effectively steer a subscriber who has just arrived in a country for the first time. The selected network could be based on the best price, GRQ scores, or any other required metric. Regardless of the decision made, the network must deliver a minimum quality of service to the customer that will satisfy their needs.

We must ask when we put a subscriber on to a network, do we reasonably expect that the network will effectively serve them? The more information we can feed into steering to make that decision, the better the decision will be.

For example, knowing some of the following information will help in this pre-emptive decision process:

  • who the subscriber is
  • if it is an IoT device
  • type of handset 
  • historical roaming patterns
  • is this subscriber usually a silent roamer
  • is the subscriber a heavy data-user

Corrective steering is where we revise the original decision, dynamically

Regardless of how good a steering decision appears, we must keep some things in mind. If the system steers a subscriber to a particular MNO and they face issues on that MNO (e.g. unable to use data, unable to register for VoLTE), we want to take action to steer that subscriber to a different network to try and automatically resolve that issue.

This is per subscriber resolution. Just because one subscriber had a problem on that MNO, we don’t have to steer everybody else away. Instead, we can just solve it for this one subscriber. This is the essence of event-driven steering. The analytics system generates events and sends these to SoR to take automatic action to resolve the roamer’s problems.

An event can be anything that happens, such as but not limited to:

  • Failure of subscriber registration for VoLTE
  • Inability to establish any data session by the subscriber
  • Absence of data usage by the subscriber in the last six hours
  • High failure rate on session creation for the last six hours by this MNO
  • The subscriber is a high-data user

We create the event; we forward it to the steering of roaming system which can then decide what to do. Does that event warrant action? If so, take an automatic action. Cellusys event-driven steering interprets the event and decides on an action to take. This may be to steer the subscriber elsewhere. It may be to update the subscriber classification to add them to a different subscriber segment. Or, it might simply be to alert the MNO. This all happens without any manual intervention and attempts to resolve the specific problem faced by that particular roamer.

A diagram of a customer account
Description automatically generated
Cellusys Event Driven Steering Schematic

Key takeaways

Events can come from any source of intelligence in the network. They can come from Cellusys Roam Insight. Events may also originate from any analytics system currently operational within the network, given its ability to produce and transmit events to the Steering of Roaming system. They need to not only be quality-focused. Events could also come from Roaming Management tools (e.g. a change in service available in a roaming partner) or financial forecasting tools (e.g. volume target being missed). Flexibility is essential to enable handling new events to meet possible challenges that could emerge in the future. Most importantly, this enables the handling of these challenges in an automated way.

Roaming will continue to get more complex and the set of technologies, handsets, and roaming use cases will increase. Adding API-driven automation to the decision-making process will ensure flexibility to tackle this growing complexity now, and in the future as new challenges emerge.

In summary,

  • Automatic and instant resolution of roaming quality issues
  • Operational efficiency as better results with fewer resources
  • Better roaming experience for all roamers so less impact on an MNO’s bottom line

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April 9, 2024