Some thoughts as I begin packing my bags to attend Informa’s LTE North America show in Dallas, an event that promises to bring over 800 people solely focused on the subject of rolling out or optimizing their LTE networks for a high quality customer experience.
There have been major changes in our dynamic industry since last year’s show, and I’d like to comment on a few changed attitudes, particularly among the analyst and journalist communities. Since 2011, I’ve been “preaching” that Diameter signaling protocol and its configured software solutions such as routing and connectivity are the key enablers for LTE. Reactions have been mixed: from a yawn, mild interest, or disbelief. I knew that signaling was always the most boring subject when speaking about telecommunications networks; and the few pundits who would listen to our story were the network infrastructure analysts.
Typically, my pitch began by explaining that since Diameter protocol was selected as the communication language of telecom networks to support data, it plays a critical role in LTE network performance and reliability. And that role expands tremendously in significance once networks become completely IP-based.
Despite the relevance that I thought that resonated from this story, many analysts in the mobile broadband space wouldn’t give me the time of day. I often wondered if I should begin to change my tact or tactic, or both.
But then things began to happen…networks began to collapse under the weight and mismanagement of Diameter signaling messaging that were generated due to the massive use of smartphones and always-on applications. In addition, the new LTE based network elements produced more signaling and created fragmented networks never before experienced by operators. Use cases were apparent where connectivity such as between legacy prepaid and postpaid billing systems and the new LTE subscriber base was required.
The constant growth of LTE rollouts required routing and connectivity solutions for LTE roamers to 3G and other LTE home networks. This year’s market introduction of VoLTE brought a whole new kettle of Diameter signaling messages as voice services operating over packet switching are much harder to manage than circuit switching, requiring more Diameter messages to keep things under control to maintain high quality of service.
Always though, the most critical use of Diameter — and this has been proven over and over this past year — is the reliability of network performance. More central than any other functionality around Diameter routing solutions, is to keep the network operating — and to perform consistently high to ensure the optimal customer experience that LTE has been promised to deliver.
So I think it’s not a coincidence that at this LTE event, there are a few from the media community who once raised their eyebrows in my direction yet today are participating in signaling forums and panels. They are contacting us for briefings and interviews. Suddenly the boring subject of Diameter signaling has gained tremendous interest in something that once was the sole realm of network engineers.
Analysts now understand that there is an infinite list of use cases for Diameter. From policy and charging to connecting legacy prepaid and postpaid billing and VAS services, plus supporting new charging plans like shared family data plans. And I’m confident that we’ll be hearing from the media soon who write about cloud and M2M because both these paradigms can’t happen without reliable Diameter routing solutions.
In short, every use case and those we haven’t yet encountered result in sending lots of Diameter messages — and all that “messaging chaos” requires better control and management with advanced, intelligent, context-aware routing solutions.
So I’m arriving in Dallas with a new face to greet me – this time the face of the media community is eager to learn more about an aspect of the network long ignored and rarely news worthy — a very technical but essential part of the big picture – but one that keeps it all working – if done right.