Signalling storm – are you ready?

A storm only slightly less violent than the 185,000 mile an hour winds that are driving tornados around the Sun, is blowing mobile operators off course. As they get to grips with the sheer quantity of data, they must now address an endless variety as well. The culprit, or hero, whichever way you look at it, is – allegedly – Apple. With the most successful iPad launch ever, the LTE/4G enabled device is now tearing a trail of destruction through the networks of North America – well, OK, proving quite challenging.

According to Doug Suriano, Tekelec’s CTO, in a Forbes post, the rise in mobile data traffic will not be operators’ primary problem. They have been “aggressively addressing data capacity, migrating to 3G andLTE, and implementing policy control and WiFI offload.”

It is the underlying network signaling that is the problem and this of course provides the information on the underlying communications that enable charging, billing, user authentication and authorization. The impact of this storm, however, has gone largely unreported.

As well as the billions of signals from billions of devices, customers often use multiple applications simultaneously – up 50 percent in the last year and predicted to increase another 50 percent next – which means that networks must track data usage more frequently otherwise they will not be able to bill.

The problem is bad enough that DoCoMo – renowned for its reliability and implementation of new network technologies – has asked Apple to help sort out the problems caused by the storm.

Other operators are in a similar position and there is only very minor comfort to be had from the knowledge that the new iPad is incompatible with some countries’ LTE and 4G networks.

This might, at least, give them time to solve the problem before the storm hits.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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