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March 28, 2014

Starhome MACH Speeds Up Availability of LTE Roaming

At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, I had the opportunity of discussing the critical area of LTE roaming with Zurich, Switzerland-based Starhome MACH, a leading provider of network and clearing services for the mobile industry. While this may to some be industry plumbing, i.e., not sexy, the future vitality of the 4G LTE in many ways is very much dependent on getting roaming available sooner rather than later. It is for many operators a matter of some urgency.

At MWC Starhome MACH executives walked me through the roaming issues operators are facing as they ramp up 4G LTE deployments and transition customers from 3G to 4G. These are not insubstantial.  

As was pointed out, subscriber expectations are soaring, roaming regulations and competition are impacting operator margins, and technology interworking complexities are increasing. This has meant mobile operators need new capabilities to increase their speed to market with critical services and speed in the market based on leveraging such things as automated processes, real-time information and extensive analytics.

Starhome MACH gave me a sneak preview on a solution that addresses these challenges and will enable operators to accelerate the availability of 4G LTE roaming.  In fact, the new solution is aptly named the LTE Accelerator, which has just been released.  

 The challenges of LTE roaming and the Starhome MACH solution

It may surprise some that LTE roaming, despite the years of industry experience, is not easy.  As Starhome MACH pointed out, currently, each LTE roaming agreement can take up to four months to implement because of the differences in protocol, billing processes and testing requirements.  In fact, as 4G Americas research has shown almost 275 operators have deployed 4G networks and now need to implement between 50-100 LTE roaming agreements to effectively deliver roaming.

Why is this so important? According to research firm Informa, LTE roamers generate 14.5 times more traffic on average than a non-4G subscriber. Although 4G connections represent only 2.9 percent of today’s mobile connections, they account for 30 percent of mobile data traffic. In areas like Europe where there is tremendous mobility by  business people who can visit several countries in a single day, roaming on broadband is already a end user imperative, and as the Informa numbers show there is certainly a lot at stake.

The LTE Accelerator piggybacks onto operators’ existing 3G agreements, allowing the visited network to provide LTE services to roamers immediately. “There is no appetite in the industry to roll out LTE roaming agreement by agreement as happened for 3G,” says Guy Reiffer, VP Marketing & Partnerships at Starhome MACH. “It is too costly for the operator and would take a minimum of three to five years to achieve. We wanted to smooth the transition to LTE and speed time-to-market.”

Starhome MACH’s LTE Accelerator™ solution piggybacks onto operators’ existing 3G agreements, allowing the visited network to provide LTE services to roamers immediately. This means elimination of the need to have those individual LTE roaming agreements, and obviously as Reiffer notes significantly cuts the time to market for implementation of services that are critical to mobile operators and their customers.

“Maximizing the customer experience is every operator’s goal,” continues Reiffer “Under the status quo, many 4G customers are forced to roam at 3G speeds. Starhome MACH’s LTE Accelerator ensures that LTE customers experience the same high quality of service – and deliver the same high ARPU - no matter their location.”

Starhome MACH has made the complex process of LTE roaming fast and simple. This is good news for all of us who wish to get the maximum value out of our mobile devices regardless of where we may roam.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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