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Mobile's Core Competence

LR Mobile Column
LR Mobile Column
LR Mobile Column

After more than a decade of ascendancy, wireless operators have reached the top of the telecom tree. Mobile telephony, built on a franchise of licensed spectrum, SIM-based authentication, and standardized GSM and CDMA technology, is one of the most lucrative businesses on earth.

But with mobile voice minutes under price pressure, and with the emergence of feature-rich IP services in the wireline world, the industry could be about to hit a ceiling. And unless mobile operators find a way to manage the transition to converged wireless/wireline services, revenues are set to flatline over the next 10 years: So finds the latest Unstrung Insider report, Routes to Roam: Mobile Core Convergence.

At heart, the successful convergence strategy will require mobile carriers to develop and leverage service-aware core networks and somehow insert themselves into the application delivery-chain regardless of the user’s access network. One of many starting points is the development and selection of mechanisms to bring alternative access networks, such as wireless LAN, broadband, or the corporate LAN, into the mobile domain.

The next-gen core network, under development by the Nokias and Ciscos of the world, is a major asset for mobile operators. Traditionally, the core serves calls and data sessions to and from mobile devices attached to the operator's own radio access network (RAN) and interfaces with other mobile networks, the PSTN, and IP networks. The future vision is for a mobile packet core capable of delivering service to subscribers wanting to access applications from generic IP access networks.

The question, then, is how can alternative access networks be ported to the mobile core and keep the operator in the driver's seat as new IP-based converged services take off?

Broadly speaking, there are four or five options under consideration by vendors and operators:

What unites all these approaches is the desire to ultimately conform and add value to the IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) network architectures being investigated – and in many cases deployed – by operators the world over. With Convergence, as with Rome, there’s more than one way to get there, but all paths should eventually lead to the same destination.

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

The report, Routes to Roam: Mobile Core Convergence, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.unstrung.com/insider.

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