As the wise old saying that I just made up goes “In life, when it comes to troubles, the arithmetic is simple. Keep them to yourself and they multiply, share them and they get divided into smaller manageable chunks.”
So when in our much beloved life of Roaming, we are faced with our biggest challenge yet, is it any surprise that the above adage to comes to the rescue. (We may not have Socrates amongst us at ROCCO, but what a poor journey it would be if we didn’t develop some philosophical thought along the way.)
The VoLTE Roaming taskforce, has become THE sharing platform for the Roaming industry, the formula of “multiplying our solutions by dividing our issues”, may not quite be E=MC2, but it works well. It has at many times felt like a group therapy session, letting it all out … the frustration at the lack of progress had been building up for a while, and it just felt absolutely great, to sit amongst our peers, who not only understand, can relate to the pain but at the same time are willing to work in unison to get us going.
But once the catharsis was done, bodies and minds felt lighter, and the resolve was strong again. The sharing and the venting gave us a really good grip on what the main issues were so the second VoLTE Taskforce meeting was all about searching for solutions. We invited the vendor community to bring to the table their thoughts on the subject. We really did get a fantastic response. We had vendors come in from different continents and walk us through their solutions. The seemingly lonely road with no milestones or directions that each MNO has had to walk towards a VoLTE Roaming launch, didn’t feel so desolate after all.
It was heartening to see that in most cases some really innovative ideas have taken shape, but for the vendors to drive them they miss the additional insights and real-world experience from MNO’s to shape these ideas into real fit for purpose products which would help the VoLTE Roaming cause.
Here are a few examples:
One of the big risks we see is the sudden explosion of launches, as networks become more aware, we expect to see a massive demand in testing resource. In the next few years the traditional means of IREG testing just may not be sustainable, we need to move to a method which has much more control and requires much less co-ordination and duplication of effort. Multiple vendors presented their solutions on automated testing solutions. No MNO should have to ship their handsets across to test anymore. One innovative solution presented gives full control to the HPMN to complete testing with multiple devices.
One of the oft repeated issues that the MNOs seemed to have given up on was Visited Country Short codes, after all with S8-Home Routing, and service un-awareness at the VPMN end how can you route calls if the number dialled is a short code that is exclusive to the visited country, and the HPMN really has no way of knowing how to route this short code. What a horrible customer experience, if when on a 2G/3G network the short code works for a customer but on 4G the calls keep failing. Would some customers choose to turn VoLTE off on their devices? Fortunately, even for this, solutions exist. They may not be perfect but again working together as a community of MNOs and vendors there’s no reason why these cannot be improved and made fit for purpose.
Whilst we do need and want every MNO to launch VoLTE, followed by VoLTE roaming, but the reality is that there are many networks across the world, with very high penetration rates of only 2G/3G compatible devices, and low roaming traffic to countries engaged in decommissioning their legacy networks. We just have to accept the fact that just like the rest of us these MNOs are also slaves to their business cases, and whilst at some point in the future, it will make sense for them to have an IMS based network, now is not the time. Once again it was great to see that even for these networks our vendor community have been scratching their heads and developing solutions on how to enable non-IMS HPMN customers to roam onto 4G networks. Again, whilst these products may not be ready to be picked up off the shelf yet, our delegates were more than happy to get their hands dirty and work with the vendors to develop them further.
VoLTE roaming is not a level playing field by any measure especially when it comes to National Regulators / Legal authorities in each country. While some couldn’t care less and put no obligations on MNOs to provide a lawful intercept, others are much more sensitive and sometimes want the seemingly impossible. It does seem very disappointing that none of the IMS providers have developed a solution based on 3GPP standards, but even here solutions do exist, and at the Taskforce we had presentations providing a detailed explanation on how Lawful Intercept could be provided and meet the strictest of obligations.
Whilst it’s too early to pop the champagne, what the task force has achieved so far is to clearly define the issues that we face and mapped them across with the solutions that already exist in the market.
The road to VoLTE roaming is no longer a lonely one, a beacon has been lit, and the Taskforce is the lighthouse that can guide your VoLTE Roaming ship away from jagged rocks to the final destination.
If you are an MNO and are looking to launch VoLTE roaming please write into firstname.lastname@example.org to join the VoLTE Roaming Taskforce. This is an MNO only taskforce and is free to join. We will share all the information on the solutions discussed above.