Nortel Romances Roaming

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) said yesterday that it has technology allowing "seamless" roaming between wireless LAN public access points and cellular networks that will be available to carriers next year (see Nortel Links WLAN, WWAN).

Okay, sounds good -- but Nortel's partners may have more to say about when and where this is available. This is complicated stuff, and it turns out that all of the features that enable seamless roaming may take longer to develop. Mobility Networks Systems, the startup that is providing Nortel with the software and hardware that integrates access to WLAN hotspots and GSM/GPRS networks, says that initially, only some of the technology promised in the press release will be available.

The technology will allow a carrier to authenticate a user roaming on a wireless LAN hotspot by checking SIM card details against the home location register (HLR) subscriber data base held on the backend of its cellular network, according to Naveen Dhar, VP of marketing and business development with Mobility. And carriers will be able to use the software to grab information from the access point so that a subscriber can be charged on one bill for time spent on local networks and cellular networks.

However, the first iteration of the Nortel equipment will not enable a user to seamlessly roam, something that involves a radio handoff, between local- and wide-area networks, according to Dhar. "They're looking at handoffs as the next phase, not as the initial phase," says Dhar. "Initially, it is all about customer ownership."

Here at Unstrung we take "seamless roaming" to mean the ability to move out of range of a wireless LAN hotspot and have the data "call" transferred to a wide-area wireless network without dropping the connection, or having to change IP address, or any of that junk.

"Our software can do that," claims Dhar. However, he says that Mobility Networks does not see much of a market for such capabilities until wireless handheld devices are widely available that support both wide-area and local connectivity. The common laptop user, Dhar reckons, will be happy with the ability to reliably log on to access points and get charged for all their wireless usage on a single bill.

So will the new networks seamlessly roam between wide-area and local hot spots? Nortel still says yes, but it's being vague about the timing.

Dave Murashige, vice president of wireless strategic marketing with Nortel, told us via email that the GSM/GPRS variant of this technology is available immediately, with CDMA support to follow in the first quarter of next year and UMTS in the middle of 2003.

"We have created the environment that will allow our operator customers to enable the seamless interoperability between wireless hot spots and 2G/3G networks today," he wrote in answer to our question about when we could expect to see initial commercial deployments of this technology. "The exact timing and implementation of this linkage will be best determined by our operator customers based on their business plans/strategies moving forward."

So then, what's Mobility Network talking about when they said the initial release won't handle roaming?

"The reference to 'seamless roaming' was meant to explain our ability to offer the same IP services -- keyed to individuals -- in either environment," says Murashige.

In other words, says Murashige, a user with Nortel's Contivity client could log on to a WLAN with the PC at the airport, and upon arrival could log on using a 1XRTT phone as a modem in the hotel.

In other words, the end user would be switching devices to roam between the networks. But from the operators' point of view, they could anchor each of these sessions using common equipment in their networks.

This is "seamless in implementation, not temporally," says Murashige.


"As to when true handoff will be implemented, this is more of a market question vs. a technical one," Murashige adds. "As mentioned, we can demonstrate that capability today, but the number of commercial devices that support mobile IP using two radio protocols simultaneously is severely limited."

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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wonderfull 12/4/2012 | 9:14:47 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Excellent article Dan.

Does any OEM provide commercial grade "seamless roaming" with session, macro-mobility, common authentication and billing mechanism across Wi-Fi and 2.5/3G/proprietary network?

A quick check of the Mobility Networks web-site reveals Ex-Metricom guys and survivors of another Wireless startup.

Why would Nortel partner with a 30 person company for key software? Are these guys that good?
ssimmons 12/4/2012 | 9:14:41 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming

Hmmm.... I listened to a speaker from Transat technologies about using cellular networks for authentication for the Wi-Fi networks. That sounds very similar to this technology....

My question is why use the cellular network for authentication.... Why not just do it all over the standard ip backbone....

I believe that Boingo uses this approach, and this seems much simpler and less confusing.

Arguments against cellular authentication:

- First, you need a cell phone account.
- Switching cell phone provider means throwing away both your cell phone and your authentication key on your computer.
- Protocol conversion. You have go through two different networks.
- Cell phone providers have a very closed network architecture.
- The cell phone provider must have an access agreement with the Wi-Fi provider.

The last point is true for a pure IP solution; however, a company-like Boingo has this as their primary focus. Cell phone providers will start having turf wars between Wi-Fi access and 3G access. That is, the people installing 3G base stations are not going to easily allow Wi-Fi access points in the same coverage area.

Just a few thoughts!!!! Good thing that I am not in either of these businesses.

joset01 12/4/2012 | 9:14:40 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming GLW wrote: "Does any OEM provide commercial grade "seamless roaming" with session, macro-mobility, common authentication and billing mechanism across Wi-Fi and 2.5/3G/proprietary network?"

Not that I know of, does anyone know any different? Lucent and Nokia have definitely talked about it in the past, but that's all I've heard so far: talk.

GLW wrote: "Why would Nortel partner with a 30 person company for key software? Are these guys that good?"

They've also done a WLAN/WWAN implementation for Rogers AT&T in Canada, so they might have some answers. I'm on it....

DJ Unstrung

joset01 12/4/2012 | 9:14:39 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Why use the cellular network for authentication?

Well, I think that it is all about the carriers wanting to lock their customers into their WLAN service (when it arrives!) and not having them use a separate WLAN service - having all charges on one bill is an attractive proposition, especially for corporate customers I think.

DJ Unstrung
wonderfull 12/4/2012 | 9:14:35 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Nokia was the 1st to announce a dual technology solution..but not sure where they are.

Motorola has a handset with integrated Wi-Fi.

Dan> They've also done a WLAN/WWAN implementation for Rogers AT&T in Canada, so they might have some answers. I'm on it....

Hmm. Rogers has migrated from TDMA to GSM/GPRS so this makes sense.

Any idea/insight into handoff latency between
Wi-Fi and 2.5/3G/Proprietary systems?

joset01 12/4/2012 | 9:14:31 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Qualcomm is also working on a x1 RTT/WLAN card. The problem is I can't get any sense when any of this stuff will actually be available...

Checking into the latency stuff, but my time is kind of taken up with Cometa/Project Rainbow stuff today, so I probably won't have anything before next week, although obviously its an intersting question.

DJ Unstrung
bitsarebits 12/4/2012 | 9:14:28 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming I apologized this is an off topic question, but,
I guess more people will read the thread.

Can anyone tell me where to buy GSM modem
which is used on transmitter side (not on mobile station side). Be specifically, we are looking for GSM modems, which implement layer 1 and
layer 2 functions of a BTS.

Does anyone have ideas where to buy it ? We are looking for an reasonable quantity.

Thanks in advance.
spc_myles_telos 12/4/2012 | 9:13:45 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Ever try going to a hotel, running their Ethernet access ports to your laptop and then using the application. Say your VPN application doesn't work because their NAT/FW doesn't have the rule set. So that means you're back to rolling out some RJ-11 and plugging into that phoneset.

Keep your Ethernet link up. Log into your ISP and then what happens. There's an application failover to the dialup link.

The OS is responsible for that.

I would surmise that similar methods would be used to achieve WLAN/1X and WLAN/GPRS switchover...Add in Mobile-IP and maybe it will work even better.

Would be great if unstrung could get some info on how this roaming works out!


spc_myles_telos 12/4/2012 | 9:13:44 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming Because at the end of the day, it would save you a TON of $$$ spent on billing mediation and account correlation. While this can be done, it makes sense for any operator to integrate the two.

Also, the most prized possession for operators (besides frequency, MHz) is the actual subscriber record. So the IMSI.

That's why solutions from Mobility Networks, Adjungo, WeRoam and Transat should make inroads.

Even for an MVNO operator, who doesn't own spectrum, they can take their brand, and setup WLAN access points strategically to encourage data use, via their WLAN, also then maybe get the GPRS/1X side going such that the data flow increases.

Several advantages to do these things!

futureisbright 12/4/2012 | 9:13:35 PM
re: Nortel Romances Roaming customary Nortel male bovine excrement.

Seamless in implementation, but not "temporally"

market question vs technical question

to inhale, or not to inhale, that is the question!!
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