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January 28, 2011

The Importance of Roaming in Mobile Communications

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

There are a number of different technology trends that emerged in 2010, but perhaps the most significant was the rise of mobile VoIP from over the top players. At least that is the opinion of Kevin Mitchell (News - Alert), director of solutions marketing for Acme Packet.

Mitchell was recently interviewed by TMCnet’s CEO, Rich Tehrani in anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO East. And, while certain declarations may have been made about 4G, Mitchell argues that both WiMAX and LTE (News - Alert) represent a generational leap from 3G as there is no circuit-switched voice channel.

When asked his opinion on the mobile winners in 2011, Mitchell noted that he hopes they all benefit as investments are being made and opportunities identified. As for government mandates and net neutrality, Mitchell believes this is a loaded term with two major parts: access to services/data and business models. He also believes, however, that federation is a way forward that can benefit all parties in the value chain. Mitchell was also asked what he uses for a personal phone and other technologies on a personal level. He acknowledged that he as an iPhone (News - Alert) 3GS and has both Wifi and femtocell in his home.

In looking ahead to 2011, Mitchell noted that the first production LTE network to deliver voice and messaging and new multimedia communications will be the greatest technological development in 2011. His session at ITEXPO East is a must-attend as he is speaking on LTE Voice and Data Roaming as roaming is essential to mobile communications. His session will explore new architectures, elements and protocols that are introduced to support roaming for both voice and data services.

Their entire conversation follows:

What was the most significant technology trend in 2010 and what impact will it have in 2011?

I believe the most significant trend in 2010 was the rise of mobile VoIP from over the top players. There were many releases across device platforms last year. Apple also stepped into the fray with FaceTime as an over the top pure VoIP communication option. Underscoring this growth, Juniper Research expects over 100 million mobile VoIP users by the end of 2012.

With the success of HSPA+ and the advent of all-IP LTE, this will put increased pressure on mobile service providers to deploy a voice and messaging solution. The good news is that the industry voted on that architecture this time last year—with the GSMA VoLTE initiative selecting IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as the way forward.

Notably, there were some partnerships as well, between Skype (News - Alert) and Verizon Wireless and Skype and KDDI; Telefónica also purchased JAJAH. While some of these are not truly mobile VoIP, this does hint at the possibility of meaningful relationships that benefit the cloud/over the top player, mobile service provider and the consumer.

The term 4G is being used by everyone regardless of the technology they have deployed?   When it comes to the mobile Internet, is the last mile the real place to put the emphasis? What other considerations impact the experience?

Regardless of ivory tower pontification and declarations by standards groups or marketing organizations, both WiMAX and LTE represent a generational leap from 3G as there is no circuit-switched voice channel. Both technologies introduce the world's first and second pure IP RAN. This RAN evolution directly impacts voice and messaging services as well as roaming, mobile core network design, clients/devices and more.

Will the mobile winners in 2011 be the device companies, the app store companies, the carriers? Who should be on our radar to watch?

I hope the win is not vis-à-vis each of the players in the ecosystem, but rather benefitting all. Service providers are making huge investments in providing a mobile broadband platform that can enable enhanced lifestyles and productivity. Device and app vendors need that platform and have the DNA to deliver innovation. Service providers also have other key building blocks such as QoS control, security and trust and billing relationships.

How important are government mandates and regulations to your business plan? What concerns do you have for the future? The FCC (News - Alert) has recently voted to support net neutrality.  Is net neutrality necessary, or will it present more challenges than it will solve?

A number of regulations are important for public safety; namely, emergency services and lawful intercept. Subscribers need utmost confidence that when they dial an emergency number, they will be connected and to the right service center in the proper location. This is where traditional fixed and mobile providers hold an advantage. Acme Packet session border control solutions help many of our customers to comply with critical government regulations in their transition to IP-based communications.

Net Neutrality is a loaded term that has two major parts: access to services/data and business models. I think we all agree that subscribers should be able to access any Internet-based service at any time. However, that expectation should also be that this will be delivered in a best effort fashion. The second issue is around subscriber experience and is tied into the business model aspect of Net Neutrality. Federation is a way forward that can benefit all parties in the value chain. Business relationships between mobile and fixed broadband providers and over the top players can establish a train of trust and validated identify that delivers revenue and a superior quality of experience. The support of those important regulations I mentioned previously can also be delivered in a federated manner.

What are you using personally for your phone? Have you deployed WiFi in your home? What are you children, family and friends teaching you about our industry? As a speaker at our events you are probably a mobile traveler? Do you feel that provides you a better perspective on what is needed in the market?

Personally, I have an iPhone 3GS. I have both WiFi and femtocell in my home; the Wifi is for data for all devices in the home and 3G femtocell is for indoor voice coverage as my old home has amazing ability to block cell reception.

Family and friends and colleagues show me that this is a world of hyper- and multi-modal communications. And it shows that the more seamless providers can make it, the better I’ll be. The ability to switch between text, chat, video, voice, with presence while preserving state and history would make many of us happier and more productive.

What will be the greatest technological development in 2011?  Why? Make one prediction based on your expectations for this year?

Given my company’s interest, I think it will be the first production LTE network to deliver voice and messaging and new multimedia communications. With IMS and VoLTE, this architecture provides more than service parity with yesterday’s mobile telephony. You’ll see this network in 2011 and more will follow.

Why is your session a must attend for attendees in Miami this February?

I’m speaking on LTE Voice and Data Roaming. Roaming is essential to mobile communications. Many hundreds of millions of subscribers roam every year and roaming traffic is growing significantly each year. This roaming capability must be carried forward in the new world. Yet, LTE is all IP and the legacy network cannot be used. This session will explore the new architectures, elements and protocols are introduced to support roaming for both voice and data services.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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