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The Future of Roaming

In the roaming industry, progress is fast. Subscribers’ expectations are constantly increasing, the industry is expanding to include new groups and devices and we all need to keep moving forward.

One of the biggest challenges in our industry is to anticipate the direction that the industry will take. We all need to plan our next steps accordingly, to be able to offer our customers the real future of roaming.

In this blog post, we will hear from various Comfone experts on what they believe will be the future of roaming, and how our Comfone services can support them.

How can we predict the future?

Future

At Comfone, we pride ourselves on being roaming experts. Our staff have a lot of experience in the industry, which helps them to spot trends and see where the industry is going. Our close relationships with customers also helps us to understand their wants and needs, and the requirements of subscribers.

Where do we see the future going?

Looking forward

In the upcoming years, millions of IoT devices will be deployed. They will use technologies to enable faster, more stable, and more secure connectivity.

These devices need to be properly detected and billed, which we can do through our DMS (Data Management Service) and Clearing Services. The near future sees a Billing and Charging Evolution, which Comfone are already prepared for with a fully fledged ‘Phoenix’ solution.

Our Hubbing services have already launched 5G traffic to some of our Key2roam Hub members, supporting customers by ensuring that they can maintain a quick time-to-market with the latest technologies and innovations.

We can achieve such quick results due in part to our Development services, which now use an agile methodology in order to react more quickly to new market trends or needs. IPX Services are constantly evolving in order to maintain great service to customers through any industry advances.

Rui Ribeiro, Data Management Service

DMS

Our Data Management Service can support new technologies like 5G, LTE-M, NB-IoT and BCE.

Monitoring and visibility are key for controlling the quality of connectivity of self-driving vehicles, smart grids for renewable energy, AI-enabled robots on factory floors and healthcare devices like those which monitor blood sugar levels or heart rate 24/7.

IoT devices have different data usage patterns and requirements. For instance, a smart lamp might consume less than 1 MB per month, whereas a self-driving car can reach more than 2GB.

To create the best charging models, operators will need to get visibility of the type of traffic they have inbound and outbound.

Access to flexible dashboards and reporting tools with different KPIs for signalling and Call Detail Records (CDRs) will be required.

Metrics including the number of Unique Roamers, Access Point Names, Sessions Durations, Number of permanence days, device type distribution, data usage patterns, devices radio access technology capabilities, and radio access technology connected will be important to take the right actions and have a profitable business.

Roberto Lima, Clearing Services

Clearing service

As the world gears in readiness of 5G, Comfone is prepared to support all companies entering this new era.

In terms of Clearing, wholesale billing and charging models have evolved to encompass innovative roaming business models, as well as new services and charging models, which cannot be supported with TAP.

GSMA has been working on functional and technical requirements to define new wholesale billing and settlement processes, as a future- proof alternative to TAP. The outcome is new standard process called BCE (Billing and Charging Evolution), defined in the GSMA PRD.s TD.2xx series.

Several articles have been written about BCE and all mention the technical and commercial aspects which lead the whole industry to believe this new standard is the most suitable to be used in 5G roaming clearing.

Phoenix is the latest service of Comfone’s portfolio, designed to fully support the new BCE standard processes, specifically with 5G roaming by supporting different models for charging by 5G network slice.

Discovering new ways of monetising traffic, using all sort of input data from mediation devices, signalling SS7 or Diameter, which would not have been possible with existing standards, Phoenix is a tailor-made service for wholesale roaming settlement in IoT and 5G, giving settling options to the different players.

Roberto Lima, Hubbing Services

Key2roam Hub

We know how much telecom companies need to work to keep up with new technology launches.

Initially, roaming agreements provided only voice and SMS services. Data came later and has never stopped evolving.

Today, launching 5G for national or international roaming requires a company to contact all its various roaming partners, one by one, to negotiate, test and launch 5G services for its customers abroad and/or for visitors to its network.

This is quite an inefficient process, which fortunately can be avoided.

Comfone´s Key2roam Hub has recently reached a milestone as we are already launching and processing 5G roaming traffic to some of our Key2roam Hub members.

5G is bringing new business opportunities for various Telecom players and time-to-market is key.

Marc Stadelmann, Development

Development

To fulfil our customers’ requirements and “time-to-market” expectations, the Development team is keen to develop new applications and features that will support the future of roaming with 5G and any next standard.

The development approach has been adapted in the last months from waterfall to SCRUM. Our aim is to be as flexible as possible. Thanks to SCRUM we can deliver new features or applications within 2-week sprints, based on customer needs without undergoing huge analysis phases. This approach significantly reduces time to market.

Even with agile development, we retain our capability for developing new services from scratch and bringing those as an end-to-end solution to the market.

Our Phoenix service is a great example of such a development. Within a short timeframe we were able to bring this brand-new service – which fully supports the BCE-standard – to the market and the first commercial launches have already taken place. As Phoenix will keep evolving, the service manager gets the full power to steer the development to ensure another Comfone success story.

Laurent Frelèchoux, IPX Services

IPX

Evolution is also a keyword for the IPX services. They have been in constant evolution over the last 20 years: from TDM 64kbps to 100Gbps IP, from 2G to 5G signalling, innovation has been permanent.

Comfone invests heavily into infrastructure to offer the best technical flows.

Geo-distribution and regionalized service nodes are strategic to the company. Comfone records a clear shift from traditional person to person roaming to IoT and M2M users.

This new segment of roaming has many implications: unprecedented increase of sponsored IMSI roaming, global players with regional breakout need, highly volatile signalling volumes, roaming disabled IMSIs that keep generating massive signalling traffic.

Comfone Virtualized Network Functions (VNF) operated in a private cloud are designed to match this evolution. Not only can those elements scale easily, all of them are built to feed into Comfone IPX monitoring and alarming data lake.

The constant increase of 3GPP protocols, with the complex interactions between the different protocols, make it a requirement to have intelligent detection of roaming issues and constant monitoring of roaming performance. New 5G Standalone signalling will add another layer of complexity to the game.

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About the author

Daniel Heutschi

Daniel Heutschi graduated from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, with a Masters degree in Economics. Following his studies Daniel joined UBS AG where he undertook various roles within the department of Corporate Clients and Mergers & Acquisitions. In 2004, Daniel joined Comfone as Product Manager. He was responsible for the development and growth of Comfone's innovative service, the Key2roam Hub. Daniel was appointed CFO at Comfone in August 2011 and in this role was responsible for managing Comfone's internal financial processes and the complete Clearing Services Portfolio. In November 2015, Daniel took on a new challenge as CFO at Diaconis. His responsibilities included complete management of the internal financial processes for the well-respected foundation offering old age housing and care, palliative care and professional integration. In April 2018, Daniel was appointed as Comfone’s CEO.

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