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Enabling Affordable Mobile Roaming For all SADC Citizens Mobile Roaming Signalling Infrastructure, Services and Clearing
Enabling Affordable Mobile Roaming For all SADC Citizens
Enabling Affordable Mobile Roaming
For all SADC Citizens

Mobile Roaming Signalling Infrastructure, Services and Clearing Houses - Study Report

31 August 2017

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©2017

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, by any means whatsoever, without the prior written permission.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge all the people that have made this study possible especially all the operators who responded to the questionnaire and all those who provided contributions during the discussions. There was no direct budget and funding for executing the study and use was made of internal resources and the time to carry out the study and have the report ready for presentation during the SADC Ministers responsible for Information and Communication Technology during their meeting in Durban, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa from 4 to 7 September

2017

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Disclaimer

The authors of this study report make no representation, warranty or undertaking (express or implied) with respect to and does not accept any responsibility for, and hereby disclaims liability for the accuracy or completeness or timeliness of the information contained in this document. The information contained in this document may be subject to change without prior notice.The opinions expressed in this study report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view and position of the region

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Table of Contents Abbreviations 6 1.0 Executive Summary 8 2.0 Introduction 9 2.1 Establishment of
Table of Contents
Abbreviations
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1.0
Executive Summary
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2.0
Introduction
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2.1 Establishment of Roaming Connection
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2.2 Simplified View of Physical Roaming Infrastructure and Services
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2.3 Purpose of the short Study
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3.0
Voice, SMS and Data Roaming Authentication Infrastructure
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4.0
Signalling System (SS7) Protocols and Signalling
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4.1
Access Solutions to the International SS7
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5.0
Findings and Recommendations
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6.0
Conclusion
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List of References
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Annex 1: Questionnaire used to gather the data and information
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Abbreviations

This study report uses the following abbreviations and acronyms:

2G GSM

Second Generation mobile services and networks – digital mobile service

3G UMTS

Third Generation mobile services and networks – packet based service

3GPP

Third Generation Partnership Project (ETSI)

BSS

Business Support System

BTS

Base Transceiver Station (as for base station)

CAMEL

Customized Applications for Mobile Enhanced Logic (for prepaid

CRASA

services) Communications Regulators' Association Southern Africa

EDGE

Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (faster data protocol for 2G)

ETSI

European Telecommunications Standards Institute

GPRS

General Packet Radio Service

GRX

GPRS Roaming eXchange

GSM

Global System for Mobile communications

GSMA

GSM Association

HLR

Home Location Register (Local)

HPLMN

Home Public Land Mobile Network

HPMN

Home Public Mobile Network

HSDPA

High Speed Downlink Packet Access (3G W-CDMA data protocol)

HSPA

High Speed Packet Access

HSUPA

High Speed Uplink Packet Access (3G W-CDMA data protocol)

IMR

International Mobile Roaming

IMSI

International Mobile Subscriber Identity

IOT

Inter-Operator Tariff

IP

Internet Protocol (used with GPRS/3G data transfers)

IPDR

IP Data Record

ISP

Internet Service Provider

IT

Information Technology

ITU-T

The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (formerly CCITT)

LTE

Long Term Evolution (of 3G UMTS)

MB

MegaByte

Mbit/s

Megabit per second

MMS

Multimedia Messaging Service

MNO

Mobile Network Operator

MTR

Mobile Termination Rate: fee charged by MNO to terminate call on

MVNO

network Mobile Virtual Network Operator

NDA

Non-Disclosure Agreement (signed contract for confidentiality of data

NOC

gathering with MNOs) Network Operations Centre

NRA

National Regulatory Authority

NRTRDE

Near Real-Time Roaming Data Exchange

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OpEx

Operating Expenditure

OSS

Operational Support System

OTA

Over-The-Air (e.g. for visitor activation)

PSTN

Public Switched Telephone Network

RAN

Radio Area Network

SADC

Southern African Development Community

SATA

Southern Africa Telecommunications Association

SGSN

Serving GPRS Support Node (for non-IP packet transfer in core network)

SIM

Subscriber Identification Module, contains the IMSI and roaming network

SMS

list Short Message Service

SS7

Signalling System 7

STIRA

Standard Terms for International Roaming Agreements

TAP

Transferred Account Procedure (file of roaming charges, usually

UMTS

wholesale) Universal Mobile Telecommunications System

VLR

Visiting Location Register

VoIP

Voice over IP

VoLTE

Voice over LTE

W-CDMA

Wideband Code Division Multiple Access

Wi-Fi

Wireless Fidelity, an IEEE standard for WLANs

WLAN

Wireless Local Area Network

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1.0 Executive Summary

The aim of this report is to provide information and analysis on signalling and settlements for regional and international mobile roaming service (IMRS). While the wireless industry has witnessed spectacular developments in recent years, and is considered competitive in domestic markets, there is a widespread perception among many stakeholders, including some within the industry itself, that IMRS prices are unreasonably and inefficiently high. Industry observations through various studies have highlighted that it is more expensive for a regional or international roamer to make a call home than for a local mobile user, in that country, to make a regional or an international call to the roamer’s home country. This report explains how dedicated signalling supports roaming for both post and prepaid roamers. The report does not make recommendations to SADC Members as any such options on pricing are work in progress being implemented and coordinated by the Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa. The findings based on the questionnaire which was send out and industry discussions are that:

Signalling is critical for roaming and without it there is no roaming

Operators have bilateral roaming agreements

The communication between operators’ authentication, tracking and billing systems is based on Signalling System (SS7) protocols and signalling. Operators interconnect directly or through signalling gateways to roaming bilateral partners

Signalling gateways partners providing cheaper options for roaming signalling than having multiple dedicated signalling links where one link for example to a European partner will interconnect signalling all roaming partners in Europe.

It’s a business case for mobile operators to interconnect for signalling and the cost of the signalling links comprises of the transmission cost and service

Operators often choose the best and stable signalling partners

Unreliable signalling interconnection links will result in no roaming and customers getting frustrated

The nature of roaming partnership direct or through third party will determine the clearing and settlements

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The recommendations from this study are as follows:

The region should consider establishing regional roaming exchanges owned jointly by the public and private sector, from which the operators will get instant roaming access to 700+ mobile networks across the globe with one connection, one invoice and one single window covering all roaming partnerships.

The African Union through the Internet Exchange Points AXIS project launched the first Mobile Roaming Exchange in Africa at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point:

“Contributing to lower roaming rates and quality of service in Africa”. In the region national and regional exchange points have been established and through AXIS, SADC and Member States should request AU to support the establishment of National and Regional Mobile Roaming Exchanges.

The roaming exchange will also provide clearing and settlement services.

To kick start the work, a selected team should visit the Kenya Mobile Roaming Exchange and companies around the world which are providing these kinds of services and this experience from the visits will help in preparing the business case.

2.0

Introduction

According to a GSMA 1 publication on roaming, roaming extends the coverage of the home operator’s retail voice and SMS services, allowing the mobile user to continue using their home operator phone number and data services within another country. The seamless extension of coverage is enabled by a wholesale roaming agreement between a mobile user’s home operator and the visited mobile operator network. The roaming agreement addresses the technical and commercial components required to enable the service. The most common international roaming services are:

Voice: Making and receiving calls to or from a home country, visited country or a third country, while abroad SMS: Sending and receiving text messages to or from a home country, visited country or a third country, while abroad

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Email: Reading and replying to emails while abroad Mobile broadband: Using mobile devices or dongles to access the internet, including downloading images, MP3s, films and software, while abroad Applications: Using mobile applications while abroad that require mobile data, such as location- based services and language translators. International mobile roaming is one of a wider range of communications services offered to mobile users while travelling abroad. Other services include hotel services, Wi-Fi, national global SIMs cards, multiple SIM card mobile handsets, and local pre-paid SIMs cards.

2.1 Establishment of Roaming Connection

When a mobile user is abroad and turns their mobile device on, the mobile device attempts to communicate with a visited mobile network. The visited network picks up the connection from the user’s mobile, recognises whether it is registered with its system, and attempts to identify the user’s home network. If there is a roaming agreement between the home network and one of the mobile networks in the visited country, the call is routed by the visited network towards an international transit network (Figure 1.0).

towards an international transit network (Figure 1.0). Source GSMA 1 : Figure 1.0 Roaming Connection The

Source GSMA 1 : Figure 1.0 Roaming Connection

The international transit network carrier is responsible for the call delivery to the destination network. Once this is done, the destination network will connect the call. The visited network also requests service information from the home network about the user, such as whether the phone being used is lost or stolen, and whether the mobile device is authorized for international use. If the phone is authorised for use, the visited network creates a temporary subscriber record

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for the device and the home network updates its subscriber record on where the device is located so if a call is made to the phone it can be appropriately routed. All this communication is facilitated by dedicated signaling.

Figure 2.0 shows the commercial (clearing and settlements) and technical details for mobile roaming The mobile user (Mobile User A) has an international roaming service with their home operator (Home Operator) and is automatically connected to a visited network (Visited Operator A) while roaming. Mobile User A is automatically granted access to Visited Operator A’s network when arriving in the visited country by an exchange of a data between Home Operator and Visited Operator A, where Visited Operator A confirms Mobile User A is a roaming customer with Home Operator. As such, the wholesale roaming agreement between Visited Operator A and Home Operator specifies how this data is to be provided to the visited operator. Home Operator usually has wholesale roaming agreements with more than one operator in the same visited country, which in this case is Visited Operator A and a second network, Visited Operator B. As a result, Mobile User A can call home using either visited operator networks, both of which use international transit services to carry the call back to Mobile User A’s home country.

to carry the call back to Mobile User A’s home country. Source GSMA 1 : Figure

Source GSMA 1 : Figure 2.0 Commercial links required for international mobile roaming

Mobile User A pays a retail price to Home Operator for the roaming service and does not pay Visited Operator A. Provided Mobile User B is not also roaming, they will not incur any extra

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charges to receive a call from, or to make calls to Mobile User A. Visited Operator A sends transferred account procedure (TAP) files to a clearing house which forwards them to the Home Operator. TAP files are used for billing of calls while roaming. Home Operator can then pay Visited Operator A the wholesale charges as per call volumes in the TAP file and rates in the wholesale roaming agreement. Visited Operator A pays an international carrier (International Carrier) for carrying the call and handing over the call to Home Operator. International Carrier pays Home Operator a termination rate for terminating the call in the home country.

2.2 Simplified View of Physical Roaming Infrastructure and Services

The detailed technical implementation of the MNO infrastructure can have some variations but these are usually minor as international standards must be followed for universal interworking to operate. The generic, simplified mobile view of the roaming infrastructure is shown in figure 3.0.

view of the roaming infrastructure is shown in figure 3.0. Source ITU 2 : Figure 3.0

Source ITU 2 : Figure 3.0 Simplified View of Roaming Infrastructure

The generic, simplified mobile view of roaming follows standard roaming architecture for UMTS (3G) and 2G GSM norms. LTE (4G) is following an evolution of this model, from its switched circuit origins, to IP packets. Figure 3.0 shows the interaction between the networks of two interacting MNOs for handling a roaming call – with not just the call path but also the billing

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data handover. In this diagram, the MNO fixed (core) network for backhaul, beyond the RAN is shown, in this case being interconnected via a transit network to the home MNO's core network. This connection may also be a direct inter-core network switched link, or via a third party transit operator, which will then also charge for carrying the call. All the communication is carried out through signalling.

2.3 Purpose of the short Study

As part of the implementation of direct cross border interconnection and regional roaming, Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA) and Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa were jointly tasked by the meeting of SADC ICT Senior Officials and Permanent Secretaries which was held in June 2017 in Harare to do a short study of roaming signaling services and clearing houses whose findings and recommendations will help the region make informed decisions as the region is addressing the cost of roaming services through the SADC Home and Roaming programme which started in June 2007. The findings of the study will be tabled during the SADC ICT Ministers Meeting 2017 going to be held in Durban, South Africa from 4 to 7 September 2017.

3.0 Voice, SMS and Data Roaming Authentication Infrastructure

A significant part in delivering SMS messages is receiving delivery information. Apart from the basic delivery report, there are protocols that help to identify the status of a phone number more precisely.

The Home Location Register (HLR), is a mobile operator database that includes details of subscribers, such as the phone number, billing details, and phone status parameters that are valuable if an SMS didn't get delivered. This data is accessible by all Mobile Switching Centres (MSC) and Visiting Location Registers (VLR).

Essential parameters in the HLR are:

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1. Phone number

2. Current network location

3. Supplementary Services

4. Number status (registered or deregistered)

5. Authentication key and Authentication Centre (AUC) Functionality

6. Mobile subscriber roaming number

The Visiting Location Register supports roaming functions for users outside the coverage area of

their own HLR. It contains mostly the same data from the HLR, yet this information is stored

temporarily, containing mostly duplicated information relevant to the subscriber network

location. As a phone number may operate outside their home network at times, the VLR can

locate in which network the number is currently roaming.

VLR helps to:

1. Monitor subscribers’ locations within the VLR’s jurisdiction

2. Determine whether a subscriber may access a particular service

3. Locate roaming numbers during incoming SMS

4. Delete the records of inactive subscribers

5. Accept information passed to it by the HLR

When sending SMS messages, the operator initially checks whether the number is sending and

receiving signals from its home network. If it's not in the home network, the VLR sends a request

for information about its current status and location by network via HLR. The VLR sends routing

information back to the Mobile Switching Center, which allows it to locate the network it’s

currently roaming to deliver the message. This communication is based on Signaling System

(SS7) protocols and signaling.

The main difference between HLR and VLR is the data that is stored in them. HLR has more permanent data while VLR’s data changes all the time and is temporary.

Essential parameters in the VLR are:

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1. Location Area Identity (LAI)

2. Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity (TMSI)

3. Mobile Station Roaming Number (MSRN)

4. Mobile status

4.0 Signalling System (SS7) Protocols and Signalling

Signalling protocols are based on ITU standards that define how network elements exchange information over digital signalling networks. Signalling services provide the connectivity that enables roaming and messaging between a mobile operator and its roaming partners. It ensures continuity of service for mobile users by enabling them to make or receive mobile calls, send or receive SMS and use mobile internet while travelling all around the globe.

4.1 Access Solutions to the International SS7

Network Different solutions for mobile operators to get access to the international SS7 network are explained below. The choice depends on:

the capabilities provided in the international nodes.

the agreements between PLMN operator and international node operator.

Five basic solutions that allow international transport of Mobile Application Part (MAP) messages for the support of roaming are:

(a) the Mobile Switching Center (MSC) has Signalling Connection Control Part (SCCP)

capabilities with an international Signalling Point Code (SPC) and is directly connected to the international Signalling System No. 7 (SS7) network, without intervention of the ISC (without SCCP and Signalling Transfer Point (STP) capabilities).

(b) the MSC is connected internationally through a stand alone SCCP gateway with an international SPC.

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(c)

foresees the connection through an ISC with STP but not SCCP capabilities; therefore the MSC needs to have SCCP capabilities with an international SPC.

(d)

is possible only in countries where the ISC foresees SCCP capabilities. In this case the MSC does not require an international SPC.

(e)

the SCCP functions are performed by a different node than the ISC. In this case the MSC does not require an international SPC.

Each of the five solutions may nationally be implemented in different ways.

5.0 Findings and Recommendations

The findings based on the questionnaire which was send out and industry discussions are that:

Signalling is critical for roaming and without it there is no roaming

Operators have bilateral roaming agreements

The communication between operators’ authentication, tracking and billing systems is based on Signalling System (SS7) protocols and signalling. Operators interconnect directly or through signalling gateways to roaming bilateral partners

Signalling gateways partners providing cheaper options for roaming signalling than having multiple dedicated signalling links where one link for example to a European partner will provide roaming with partners in Europe.

It’s a business case for mobile operators to interconnect for signalling and the cost of the signalling links comprises of the transmission cost and bilateral service fees.

Operators often choose the best and stable signalling partners

Unreliable signalling interconnection links will result in no roaming and customers getting frustrated

The nature of roaming partnership direct or through third party will determine the clearing and settlements

The recommendations from this study are as follows:

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The region should consider establishing regional roaming exchanges owned jointly by the public and private sector, from which the operators will get instant roaming access to 700+ mobile networks across the globe with one connection, one invoice and one single window covering all roaming partnerships.

The African Union through the Internet Exchange Points AXIS project launched the first Mobile Roaming Exchange in Africa at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point:

“Contributing to lower roaming rates and quality of service in Africa”. In the region national and regional exchange points have been established and through AXIS, SADC and Member States should request AU to support the establishment of National and Regional Mobile Roaming Exchanges.

The roaming exchange will also provide clearing and settlement services.

To kick start the work, a selected team should visit the Kenya Mobile Roaming Exchange and companies around the world which are providing these kinds of services and this experience from the visits will help in preparing the business case.

6.0

Conclusion

This short study looked at how roaming works and the importance of signalling. Infrastructure sharing by operators is a key driver for reducing cost of services. The launch by the African Union through the Internet Exchange Points AXIS project the first Mobile Roaming Exchange 4 in Africa and fourth in the world at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point:

“Contributing to lower roaming rates and quality of service in Africa” is a best practice which the region can consider. SADC could request as part of the AXIS project funding from AU to rollout mobile roaming exchanges.

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List of References

1 International Roaming Explained, GSMA, April 2013

2 Guide for NRAs on International Mobile Roaming Cost analysis - Technical Paper, ITU, 2015

3 Technical Architecture Alternatives for Open Connectivity Roaming Hubbing Model Version 2.0 , GSMA, 26 February 2015

4 AU Launches the first Mobile Roaming Exchange in Africa at the Kenya Internet Exchange Point: “Contributing to lower roaming rates and quality of service in Africa”, September 2016

Annex 1: Questionnaire used to gather the data and information

The questions which were asked the operators through an online survey and manual form were:

*1. Which of the following best describes your organization?

Fixed Operator Mobile Operator Fixed and Mobile Operator VoIP Service Provider Internet Service Provider
Mobile Operator Fixed Operator Fixed and Mobile Operator VoIP Service Provider Internet Service Provider
Fixed and Mobile Operator Fixed Operator Mobile Operator VoIP Service Provider Internet Service Provider
VoIP Service Provider Fixed Operator Mobile Operator Fixed and Mobile Operator Internet Service Provider
Internet Service ProviderFixed Operator Mobile Operator Fixed and Mobile Operator VoIP Service Provider

*2. Which operator(s) provides your SS7/C7 signalling for roaming and cross border traffic termination? Please indicate the SS7 gateway provider, the capacity e.g E1 and the cost in United States Dollars per month.

e.g E1 and the cost in United States Dollars per month. 3. Nationally and within SADC

3. Nationally and within SADC does your organization have SS7 Signalling interconnection with other operators? Please indicate the capacity and the cost if any.

SS7 Signalling interconnection with other operators? Please indicate the capacity and the cost if any. Confidential

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*4. As an operator, for your SADC traffic to and from network, is the traffic cleared by a third party clearing house(s) for settlement? Please indicate the clearing house(s) and the costs for the services.

the clearing house(s) and the costs for the services. 5. As a SADC Operator, do you

5. As a SADC Operator, do you subscribe to implementation of local regional signalling

gateways and clearing house(s)?

Yesof local regional signalling gateways and clearing house(s)? No 6. If your answer to question 5

Noregional signalling gateways and clearing house(s)? Yes 6. If your answer to question 5 is yes,

6. If your answer to question 5 is yes, can you recommend a business model for the signalling

gateways and clearing house(s) which all operators will be willing to do business with.

the signalling gateways and clearing house(s) which all operators will be willing to do business with.

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