A new age of mobile end-to-end connectivity

Capacity’s Jason McGee-Abe spoke to Gergely Vadas, head of Mobile World at Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier, to find out what today’s challenges are with IPX, roaming, and messaging

Capacity has reported on a plethora of message-focused Deutsche Telekom international wholesale arm projects, so who better to get an update from than the man who is head of Mobile World at the carrier.

Vadas is running the mobile services team, also known as Mobile World, since four years. Mobile World manages and sells roaming enablement services (IPX network, signalling for roaming and data roaming), Wi-fi roaming (terrestrial hotspots and inflight connectivity) and messaging solutions. Vadas updates Capacity about how these respective parts of the mobile portfolio are developing.

Roaming and signalling

IPX and signalling were previously seen as “a necessary evil that was quite plain vanilla,” says Vadas. “Over the past few years, the gears have shifted and now we’re looking at new interesting topics. For example, what is very visible from the end-user and retail side is the boom of usage, which is reflected on the signalling side but even more so on the IPX network.” 

GPRS roaming data use was only an afterthought, he explains, and everyone tried to use their IPX networks for various services but because of the explosion of roaming data, the needs and requirements for IPX connectivity have gone to a different magnitude. Mobile operators need to ensure end-to-end quality on networks and can’t function effectively today with the legacy setup when IPX networks peer with one another, never usually having more than two touch points, and just being solely focused on their own network.

“When these traditional IPX peering settings were originally set up there was no SLA or quality management. Today, we’re kicking off this requirement to ensure that there is a high level of SLAs across peering partners so that we’re able to actually measure and manage, on an end-to-end basis, regardless of whose IPX network it is,” Vadas tells Capacity.

“There is certainly a renewed interest in establishing closer ties to the foreign networks, establishing new connectivity. At the same time, we need to work closer and more collaboratively with the big players, but in a different way.”

Traffic growth has exploded but especially in Europe as a result of the EU’s introduction of a ‘roam-like-at-home’ regulation in June 2017. To tackle these traffic surges, the Deutsche Telekom team dramatically increased capacity, upgrading its IPX ports at the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) to 100Gbps for example and upgrading several customers and peering interconnections to 100Gbps infrastructure.

“The technical enablement for roaming covers the IPX network, the development and optimisation on top of that, and it also covers the various types of signalling for international roaming and the data roaming service itself,” he explains. One recent development here is that Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier has signed a deal with Tele2 Group, which will see the international wholesale arm of Deutsche Telekom provide international signalling services for all of Tele2’s network operations. The company is providing a secure solution via multiple accesses to its global smart IPX network as a way to comply with Tele2’s operational and geo-redundancy requirements.

“We are honoured that Tele2 trusts our solution and joined our growing list of partners. It is an important proof point of our roaming enablement strategy. It is highly critical that the technical network is able to support roaming,” says Vadas.

Wi-Fi and in-flight connectivity

The Wi-Fi business covers the footprint of the DT affiliates and beyond. It has recently been working on the European Aviation Network (EAN), the in-flight Wi-Fi service that Deutsche Telekom launched with Inmarsat. Vadas’ team is working to provide roaming in this environment and is looking heavily at how it can create Wi-Fi-like cellular roaming.

“We’re trying to make the Wi-Fi experience similar to the cellular roaming experience where you just turn on when you want to roam. There’s a lot of challenges in this offline-online existence when trying to access Wi-Fi on an airplane but it’s a high priority for us. As more and more airplanes connect to this network, we want to ensure that customers are able to use this service simply and smoothly,” Vadas says.

The European Aviation Network, which provides connectivity for passengers and airlines, includes a S-band satellite and around 300 terrestrial LTE base stations scattered across 30 European countries. The network can provide connectivity speeds up to 75Mbps with sub-100ms latency to aircrafts, which can then offer an on-board Wi-fi service to its customers. The market opportunity here is vast. Europe has the busiest airspace traffic in the world, with more than 22,500 flights per day – over 500 million a year.

With the completion of the first ever integrated pan-European LTE ground network component the company is now able to fully support EAN’s satellite connectivity and maximise the performance of the EAN system. The network is specifically designed to meet future capacity demands for connectivity in European airspace, with passenger volumes expected to double in the next 15 years.

IoT on the IPX layer

Internet of things (IoT) devices are claiming more and more of the usage in the IPX sphere and Deutsche Telekom is a big global player in IoT and collaborative efforts internally are strong to ensure the success of roaming. The company is also actively driving 5G standardisation and its IPX will be there to enable 5G interconnectivity in a new way.

“When one looks at the actual usage of IoT devices of the international signalling channels and what happens here, it’s remarkable that all of a sudden the purpose of the network is two-fold,” he says. “IoT is a massive challenge and opportunity to separate these two usages – human and machine.”
Human usage has a basic principle when it comes to data roaming, where everything is being home-routed and data traffic always goes home to the origin network, but with IoT machines different things come into play.

“You cannot afford to have roundtrip delay in this connectivity,” Vadas explains. “First of all, you need to identify the type of traffic first, which is a huge challenge when looking at the data volumes on these platforms. And then, very often, you need to handle it differently and peel off the traffic to optimise for latency and different usage. You shouldn’t transport everything in a plain undifferentiated way rather send different types of services to different types of servers so they can be handled directly and respectively.”

IoT on the IPX layer is kicking off different challenges beyond the roam-like-at-home boom of data volumes. At the same time, big data has a reinvigorated focus and need now, the Mobile World head says. “Four or five years ago, we started looking at big data for analysis and reporting but when it comes to handling the various services differently amid IoT, all of a sudden big data really comes to the fore.”

To manage lots of undifferentiated traffic working in a data rich environment is imperative, he explains, and for three different reasons. “To ensure the quality of your network, establishing a different layer to ensure the user experience is fine-tuned to the different use, and finally, with any of these networks, you need to operate predictably.” “Making the network more dynamic and flexible in this way helps us to identify potential failures and to identify the fluctuation in usage.”

This is where big data and predictive analytics is a critical element for Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier. “We have a completely new game plan to approach our IPX network today as a result,” he says.

Messaging & RCS

The company’s messaging business is increasingly growing in prominence these days. Traditionally, the focus was with person-to-person (P2P) messaging but over the last few years an application-to-person (A2P) messaging unit was established and closer collaborative ties with T-Mobile affiliates have been forged to monetise the revenue potential with these entities when it comes to A2P and SMS. 

The IPX network is no longer a niche network and with more services emerging, it has turned into a large, robust and secure dedicated network highway to connect all kinds of mobile ecosystems. As such, Deutsche Telekom is adapting more and more with the IoT world and to areas such as rich communications services (RCS). The A2P business is now very interested in RCS and there is some significant monetisation potential for mobile operators.

Despite OTTs launching their own business messaging platforms RCS is a big opportunity to revitalise messaging, particularly with IP messaging, and is a big opportunity for the telecoms market. “We expect business messaging and RCS to really take off this year, as more and more devices with RCS installed are rolled out in our MNO footprint,” adds Vadas.

Exciting, but equally challenging times, ahead for the Mobile World team in tackling surging capacity needs and roaming enablement in the booming era of data and usage.

You can also read this interview with Gergely Vadas in the February / March edition of Capacity Magazine here.

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