As the number of operational LTE networks grows and 4G data traffic volumes increase, so the battle between IP exchange specialists to manage international 4G roaming traffic is intensifying.
According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 145 mobile operators had launched LTE services in 66 countries by the start of 2013, with the GSA expecting that number to rise to 234 service providers in 83 countries by the end of this year. That means there's a growing number of operators that'll be wanting to offer lucrative 4G roaming services to their subscribers without having to broker multiple individual interconnection agreements.
That's where the traffic exchanges come in, offering ready-made international interconnect agreements plus a range of settlement, security and revenue assurance capabilities.
Tata Communications Ltd. joined the fray last week, announcing the availability of its managed LTE Roaming Service at 120 points of presence (PoPs) globally following 18 months of trials. The global data services player says its service comprises a Diameter signaling exchange platform (for roaming authentication and policy control) as well as the IP exchange for data roaming and transport. (See Tata Comms Offers LTE Roaming and Diameter Matters.)
But it's entering an already competitive market. Syniverse Technologies Inc., which has long been offering mobile interconnect services, has already conducted a number of LTE roaming trials with major mobile operators and says its service is being used for the launch of LTE roaming services in North America. And it announced Monday that it is adding LTE roaming PoPs in two more locations in Europe (Frankfurt, Germany, and Marseille, France) in the current quarter to take the total to 16. (See Tier 1s Trial LTE Roaming With Syniverse and Syniverse Adds IPX PoPs in Europe.)
Aicent Inc., meanwhile, has already enabled roaming for SK Telecom for travelers between South Korea and Singapore using its LTE Roaming Exchange and has set up China Mobile Hong Kong Co. with an international LTE roaming service. (See Aicent Helps SK With LTE and Aicent Intros Diameter Service for 4G Roaming.)
Other companies pitching for the same business include BICS (Belgacom International Carrier Services), iBasis Inc., Roamware Inc., Starhome and Sybase Inc.. (See Starhome Launches its LTE Roaming Solution at Tier 1 Operator, Roamware Buys IPCom, iBasis Launches LTE Signaling Exchange and Sybase 365 Launches LTE Roaming Hub.)
Enabling LTE roaming is, of course, only part of the challenge: Mobile service providers also need to figure out how to charge for, and make money from, mobile data roaming services in a world where international travelers are becoming increasingly accustomed to switching off their data services as they arrive in a foreign country, choosing instead to connect with the growing number of Wi-Fi services on offer in urban areas, hotels etc.
â€” Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading