We see a lot of emphasis placed on the importance of mobile data roaming by our service provider customers.  Why so much attention on something that many subscribers take for granted? A recent study by Juniper Research predicted that the revenue generated from mobile data roaming will hit $42 billion (US) by 2018 and make up 47 percent of the overall roaming traffic.  It cites rising world tourism and increased business travel as drivers affecting the demand by consumers for continuous coverage who want to stay connected to their favorite applications wherever they go. 

However, some service providers are seeing flat revenues when it comes to LTE even as they increase the investment in their next generation 4G networks.  Will the revenue picture stay bleak as regulators step in?  Fees associated with roaming are taking center stage in many parts of the globe. In January 2014, the EU parliament backed legislation that will phase out roaming fees across the European Union by December 2015. But the legislators insist that operators will make up for the lost revenue with increased volume. Regardless, service providers see the need to continue to evolve their game not only to provide their customers a consistent user experience as they roam but also monetize their investment by attracting inbound roamers who are gaining more control to whom they give their business.

As service providers migrate their networks and customers from earlier generation technology to 4G, services become another application delivered over IP. Regardless, there will still be a large number of 3G subscribers for the next several years. The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update estimates that 3G subscribers will make up 48% of the overall market by 2016 with 4G subs comprising 8 percent.  So from a roaming perspective, service providers need to be able to accommodate not only 4G-to-4G subscriber roaming, but also 3G-to-4G roaming scenarios, the latter in many cases requiring interworking legacy SS7 signaling with Diameter-based signaling.

Service providers are also looking at capabilities like local breakout for their roaming customers.  With this architecture, an operator can breakout a roaming subscriber’s mobile data traffic to the Internet in the visited network as opposed to the traffic being hauled all the way back to the subscriber’s home network.  This approach saves on trunking costs and can improve the overall user experience, but enabling this will involve sharing of policy, charging and authentication information between networks via Diameter signaling.

How are service providers gearing up their networks to support advanced roaming as they turn up 4G networks and implement IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) to support Voice over LTE (VoLTE)?  We will discuss the role that next generation Diameter Signaling Controllers play in enabling enhanced roaming scenarios during an upcoming webinar on September 11th at 10:00 AM EST. Next generation DSCs are starting to take on a larger role that includes capabilities like:

  • Helping speed up 4G Evolved Packet Core network deployments,
  • Enabling charging, policy and subscriber data management platforms from different vendors to work together seamlessly, and
  • Helping deliver differentiated services to customers.

Join us as we talk with Heavy Reading Analyst, Jim Hodges, on “Why the DSC of yesterday won’t meet the needs of your Diameter networks now.”