SA needs solutions for roaming market

The continent's maturing communications industry needs optimised solutions to support its growing roaming market

South Africa was the focus of world attention in 2010 as it hosted an estimated half a million foreign visitors for the most spectacular sporting event in the world, the World Cup. The Chronicles of World Cup History now house the 2010 event as its latest entry, but for the rest of the globe, the World Cup hype is history.

It must be said however, that to associate South Africa purely with football would be grossly unfair. Africa boasts so much more than a new football stadium and world cup prestige. It is home to the great migration of the Serengeti and Masai Mara which made it to the USA Today's list of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2006. Africa is also said to be the oldest inhabited territory in the world, making it a curious and sought after destination for world travelers. Its breathtaking views, wildlife safaris and diverse culture spans all 11,608,000 sq miles (30,065,000 sq km). 

During 2010, it was estimated that 10mn tourists passed through South Africa’s ports of entry, setting a new record. Individual tourists, each with their own different agendas, had one item in common when traveling this vast and magnificent continent, their trusty mobile phones.

Planning, preparing and performing
The current number of mobile phone subscribers in most African countries has surpassed fixed-line subscribers. And, according to a study by audit firm Ernst and Young's Global Telecommunication Centre, Africa's telecommunication industry will record significant growth in the next five years, defying the global recession. 

This has left Africa’s growing and maturing telecom industry searching for optimised solutions to secure their share of the ever increasing roaming market. As a result of Africa’s massive size, the majority of mobile roamers within the continent are subscribers who are traveling from one African country to another. Africa is comprised of mobile operator groups and/or alliances, which means that mobile operators have a vested interest in ensuring that outbound roamers are retained within their specific group. This significant business objective highlights the importance of Steering of Roaming (SoR) solutions for Africa, especially in the aggressive and competitive African mobile marketplace.

Home public mobile networks (HPMN) control which visited network their outbound roamers register to based on their own agenda, leaving VPMNs without any defense against their competitors. As a result, visited public mobile networks (VPMN) must search for new methods to preserve their inbound roaming revenues.
Since the inbound market provides visited network operators with the majority of total roaming revenue, it is only natural that many operators are currently seeking inbound management solutions to ensure that this important revenue source is protected and even enhanced. Yet, it is difficult to preserve, due to competition from other VPMNs and steering of roamers to partner networks by HPMNs.
Focusing on the fundamentals
One of the few positive aspects of the worldwide economic downturn is that it has succeeded in refocusing the attention of mobile operators on their core business. As revenues have tightened, many operators are concentrating on getting back to basics and using the proper fundamentals to successfully weather the storm.

For operators to secure their inbound market share, roamers must be detected, maintained and controlled, so that African mobile operators can preserve one of their most important revenue streams. It is now possible for African operators to achieve these goals while actually lessening costs.

The lion’s share of inbound roamers - from Safari to the Kalahari
Gateway Location Register solutions are increasingly popular, because they enable VPMNs to significantly reduce the signaling messages sent to the signaling provider and towards HPMNs. This reduction lowers expenses and provides control over inbound roamers' activities within the network.

Gateway Location Register solutions reduce signaling related to location changes in the VPMN by 70 per cent, enhancing cost savings and reducing the efficiency of SoR solutions by managing the majority of location changes (between VLRs) locally within the network.

Until recently, operators were slightly apprehensive of deploying Gateway Location Register solutions. However, this year a consensus between mobile operators approved the use of Gateway Location Register as a legitimate method to significantly reduce the amount of signalling messages sent via its signaling provider to HPMNs.

Gateway Location Register solutions are able to provide reports identifying the locations where inbound roamers leave the network to another competing network in the country (commonly called “leakage”). Information is collected on a real-time or history basis, and enables operators to optimise their network radio coverage based on leakage reports that are provided.

A comprehensive and flexible set of tools allow visited mobile network operators to optimise control of their inbound roaming traffic. A comprehensive toolkit should include: an intelligent and configurable application for implementing business objectives; a user-friendly, web-based GUI provisioning interface; and reporting, including online and off-line roaming reports.

The leading Gateway Location Register solutions are based on the SS7 network. As handsets of all types adhere to the GSM standard in regards to the basic network selection process, this solution is completely handset-independent, providing flexibility for users and operators.starhome-ms-amit_daniel

Staking your claim
Mobile operators seeking to endure the current financial climate as well as securing their share of the inbound roaming market are well-advised to re-focus on their core strengths in order to endure. This means protecting inbound roaming revenues and ensuring the greatest possible steering efficiency.

Gateway Location Register solutions are a standard and legitimate form of practice to manage and optimise operator’s inbound roaming traffic. In a mobile telecom market environment of increasing competition, controlling inbound roamers is a prerequisite if mobile operators want to stake their share of the inbound roaming market.

Amit Daniel, Vice President of Marketing for Starhome

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