We’ve all heard that some Value Added Services (VAS) revenue such as Short Message Service (SMS) are starting to decline in some markets due to competing OTT services. However, overall, the mobile VAS market is expected to grow at over 10 percent until 2018. While I couldn’t find anything recently on the Internet that I could point to regarding market size, suffice to say globally it’s between $10B to over $20B per year, likely over $20B. So it’s sizable, still important, and worth fighting for if you are a mobile operator.
Many of the VAS services involve signaling as a key element. Mobile commerce apps such as mobile wallet type offerings, “collect” mobile calls, or moving prepaid money from one subscriber to another typically use USSD as a secure mechanism. Location- based services might also be designed, at least partially, on cell location which involves signaling and could also include offering “discounts” based on locations where possibly underutilized cells might be deployed. Network services such as missed call notification, ringtones and roaming all involve signaling. So signaling is a key element in many mobile VAS offerings.
This week is the GSMA BARG (Billing Authentication, Roaming Group) number 84 meeting. There have been 83 previous meetings, highlighting the importance of these mobile topics. And presumably there will be many more. Likely topics to be covered, at the next BARG meeting will involve LTE with respect to billing, authentication and roaming and this will obviously involve Diameter.
Looking into LTE, Diameter as a signaling protocol can offer value-added differentiated services similar to how SS7 and signaling offered some differentiated services. For instance, let’s take roaming. An operator will know when someone is roaming, all based on signaling information, and may want to establish special handling. Maybe this person is like me and is expected to be “on line” all the time, even if travelling 12 time zones away. After all, the company is paying for my device, gives me a device and expects fast response. During my trip to Singapore to LTE Asia, I was actually in the border control line and was approving a press release. It took some time to download so I wished, yes wished, I was on LTE during that time. Someone like that would be a “high value” roamer and service providers may want to treat these people differently since they are willing to pay. Or maybe a service provider needs to blacklist a communication because they haven’t paid. They would be a “low value” roamer. Clearly, there are areas to offer differentiation and services.
While LTE is justifiably getting all the attention these days because of its impact on the industry, LTE is only expected to be 28 percent of all subscribers by the end of 2019. That means a lot of interconnect and interworking with other mobile networks are needed. Interesting roaming services like 4G onto 3G and 3G onto 4G could be good services.
Wi-Fi is one of those networks LTE needs to interconnect with. Seamless transition from LTE to Wi-Fi would be a great service. Wi-Fi offload is traditionally used to address congestion on 3G networks. This is still a valid use case. More than 55 percent of all mobile data is expected to be offloaded to Wi-Fi networks by 2017, so Wi-Fi offload will be critical. It is becoming an attractive model for 4G networks as well, but not because of congestion (at least not yet)! It provides an opportunity to increase service coverage for LTE subscribers in a seamless manner. It also opens up new models around data roaming and the steering of that traffic through service provider networks. Maybe for “high value” payers like me?
Speaking of Wi-Fi, connecting to Wi-Fi networks also means connecting to enterprise where there would be LDAP queries. Other interesting enterprise-based services could be deployed.
My point here is that signaling on today’s networks offers an opportunity for differentiation and a way to fight the VAS decline. There is differentiation in Mobile VAS, differentiation in roaming, differentiation in network interworking, etc.