Tier 1 operators are deploying IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert) (IMS) architectures and virtualizing their networks to control costs and deploy a variety of innovative, revenue-generating services. All that evolution will have a direct impact on smaller operators, imposing new demands and expectations on their networks. But, right now, most Tier 2–4 operators’ networks aren’t yet equipped to deliver.
Why tier 2-4 operators need to stay ahead of the curve
One of the biggest moves being made by Tier 1s is the shift to voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) for mobile voice. As this happens, they’re going to want their roaming partners to provide continuity of service to their subscribers. As roaming is a significant source of revenue for many smaller operators, meeting this expectation will be vital to maintaining the agreements they have. While the prospect of taking on new technologies may be daunting, especially because many operators have their hands full with current demand, keeping pace technologically with any potential partner will be essential to winning new roaming business down the road.
At the same time, in an effort to minimize off-network costs incurred by their own subscribers when in roaming situations, many smaller operators are turning to voice over WiFi (News - Alert) (VoWiFi), which supports voice communication in other providers’ jurisdictions without requiring connection to the cellular network.
Tier 2-4 operators also don’t want to lose subscribers who may be enticed by the services offered by Tier 1s. To reduce churn, smaller operators need the ability to launch and support new services themselves, such as Internet of Things (IoT) or enterprise applications. Adding new services can be a strong magnet for new business — and the faster they can deploy them, the better their chances of attracting new customers in a competitive marketplace.
What it will take to get there
One of reasons smaller operators find it hard to keep pace is that managing IP traffic from multiple devices and users — some of whom are subscribers and some who are not — along with the necessary connections to other providers, depends on what have traditionally been hardware-based functions: authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA) servers to initiate connections and track usage; Diameter routing agents (DRAs) to handle relay, proxy, redirect and interworking; and session border controllers (SBCs) to secure and control signaling and media flows.
As standalone pieces of hardware deployed physically across the network, each of these functions has to be managed independently — and interoperability, especially in multivendor environments, is imperfect, to say the least.
The ability to support VoLTE, VoWiFi and IoT demands more dynamic, flexible and intelligent networking capabilities that simply aren’t available with legacy, hardware-based AAA, DRA and SBC infrastructure.
Becoming future-ready with Secure Service Enablement
While many smaller operators know they need to evolve, just looking at the checklist of implementation requirements can make their heads spin. Will you support the LBO or S8HR roaming model? A hub or bilateral framework? APN or QCI-based charging? While the T1s have the expertise, they’re too wrapped up in their own evolutions and aren’t in a place to help guide you through your own network changes.
Fortunately, Secure Service Enablement can help tier 2-4 operators lay a stonger foundation for VoLTE and beyond. By offering AAA, DRA and SBC as a set of software-based capabilities, smaller operators get the flexibility and scalability needed to support new technologies and protect roaming revenues. A virtualized, cloud-ready service enablement approach also makes it easy to scale up or down with demand to seize emerging opportunities like IoT.
To learn more about how Secure Service Enablement can make your network more profitable and gain agility for the future, register for Nokia’s webinar presented with IHS Markit.
Edited by Erik Linask