GSMA Groups Help Roaming Be the Best It Can Be

Filed in Roaming by on September 9, 2015 0 Comments

GSMA_Roaming-ThumbnailOf all the processes that make mobile work, roaming continues to be one of the most complex, and one of the most amazing. And thanks to a number of collaborative industry organizations that work largely behind the scenes, this process continues to become more and more seamless and valuable for today’s mobile user.

Over my career, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of this work, both at Syniverse and at a mobile industry organization that has played an instrumental role in roaming, the GSMA. The GSMA, among other organizations, provides an open environment dedicated to addressing longstanding challenges, exploring new technologies and updating standards for roaming. In the spirit of industry advancement, the GSMA’s groups bring together a diverse range of mobile professionals to make the roaming experience the best it can be for the mobile user.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to join these professionals and one roaming group in particular, the Interoperability Data specifications and Settlement Group (IDS). Recently, the Products and Services Management Committee, one of the GSMA’s central groups, officially recognized Syniverse for my work on IDS, and in this post I would like to answer several questions I often get about the nature of this group’s work and share more about our goals.

As mobile use continues to grow and more people travel outside their home coverage areas, roaming will continue to form a crucial element of the mobile experience. I hope my answers shed light on some of the accomplishments in roaming that IDS has made and some of the important challenges we now face.

What’s the purpose of IDS, and what are the group’s top priorities?
IDS can be seen as the information technology arm of the GSMA’s Wholesale Agreements and Solutions Group, which is dedicated to the development and maintenance of roaming and interconnect agreement templates, solutions and charging frameworks. (IDS is actually a new name for this group, which was formerly known as the Transferred Account Data Interchange Group, or TADIG, and was formed back in the late 1980s.) IDS is responsible for defining and improving a number of the complex processes that take place behind the scenes to make roaming work. This includes developing standards and procedures for such well-known processes as TAP (Transferred Account Procedure), NRTRDE (Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange), and RAEX (Roaming Agreement EXchange), just to name a few.

What has been your involvement with IDS?
I’ve had the privilege to be one of the most active members ever. I’ve been a member since 1995 and have held several positions over the years. These have included Chairman of the File Specification Subgroup (FSS) from 1997 to 2000, Chairman of TADIG itself from 2000 to 2012, and Chairman of the Technical Data interchange Specifications subgroup (TDS) since 2013.

How many members does the IDS Group have, and how often do you meet?
IDS has over 500 members and meets twice yearly. Our last meeting was in Madrid in June. The meetings generally draw 50 to 100 people. Our next meeting will be in Rio de Janeiro in November.

What are some of the biggest challenges that the IDS Group is working on now?
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) roaming is probably the single most important challenge that we are facing now. The initial VoLTE roaming architecture involved local breakout and full-service visibility in the visited network. While most agree that this is the technically most advanced solution for voice and other IMS services over LTE, it is also the most complex. As a result, it has taken operators a long time to implement because of the challenges on the network side, and the GSMA therefore initiated a re-evaluation of the VoLTE architecture that has now led to a simpler alternative to local breakout called S8 Home Routing (S8HR). IDS has developed full TAP and RAEX support processes for S8HR, which is being launched Nov. 1, but there are still challenges to overcome, such as billing testing and providing operators with good guidance on how to implement VoLTE.

Why is it important for industry experts to join forces in groups like IDS?
While telephony in its infancy was quite simple, roaming introduced a totally different level of complexity for which it’s essential to have standards. Operators today each typically have 700 to 800 roaming relations. Developing custom interfaces for all those relationships, potentially 250,000 worldwide, would simply be impossible and cost-prohibitive to maintain.

Roaming has been a success since the first GSM operators got together and formed the GSMA to introduce standard rules, formats and processes for virtually every single interface needed for roaming to work. However, it’s critical to the quality of these standards that they be developed with buy-in from industry leaders. All this work makes it possible for mobile users to use their phone just as they do at home, wherever they are in the world.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a member of IDS?
I’ve been working in leading roles in the GSMA since 1995, and I find the international environment particularly rewarding. The detailed work is normally done in smaller groups of 10 to 25 people from diverse cultural backgrounds. We have professionals from all over the world getting together on equal terms, and it’s gratifying that we all can both work and have fun together, and agree on a common goal. My aim is always to have 100 percent consensus for all decisions we make, and we manage that most of the time within IDS.

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About the Author ()

Christer Gullstrand is a former Senior Director of Industry Relations and GSMA Liaison Officer at Syniverse.

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