Commercial challenges greater than technical for LTE roaming

Technology executives at some of Scandinavia’s biggest carriers told the audience at LTE World Summit today that, while technical hurdles are easy to overcome, more complex commercial issues mean a single mobile market without roaming borders is still some years away. The remarks were made during a session on LTE roaming at the event in Amsterdam, where the technology heads of Telenor and TeliaSonera affirmed that LTE roaming is growing rapidly, not just in Scandinavia but also worldwide.

They reference recent calls from EC VP for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes for a single European telecoms market and an end to roaming charges within the EU.

According to the executives on the panel, ten million megabytes of roaming data were consumed in Europe in 2012 – a figure the will explode to 70 million megabytes within four years, as operators move to LTE roaming scenarios much faster than they did 2G and 3G roaming.

But Tommy Ljunggren, VP system development at TeliaSonera said: “Solving the technical part of roaming is easy, it’s the commercial part that slows things down.”

Ljunggren revealed that it can take between four and six months to roll out one roaming agreement, so reaching a point where operators are able to treat Europe as a single roaming market will take several years at least. The number of relations an operator will establish on an annual basis with regards to roaming number well into the thousands, the carriers said.

Ajay Joseph, CTO of wholesale services provider iBasis said that the majority of LTE roaming agreements struck today are done so on a bilateral basis and it takes several months to set each one up.

As a result, hubbing, which is something iBasis specialises in, is picking up traction as it takes all the pain out of establishing roaming deals by giving the operator just one connection through which to reach many roaming partners.

But there are still obstacles to overcome. Joseph said that VoLTE roaming is very complicated to set up as the IMS overlay needs to work between the home and visitor networks. Yet he claims that 39 per cent of telcos worldwide aim to have VoLTE deployed by 2014.

Yet he was adamant that it will be impossible to use just LTE for wireless connectivity, even in the future. “There simply isn’t enough spectrum,” he said. “You need to use wifi to offload the traffic. It’s a complimentary technology to LTE,” he said.


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