SS7ware’s insights from the MVNOs World Congress

VNOs World Congress 2017 (1)

We just got back from the MVNOs World Congress, in Nice, where we did quite a good impression with our YateHSS/HLR and YateUCN solutions for MVNOs. The “not so shocking” conclusion that we came to was that our public pricing policy impacts the MVNO market at its core.

We already knew that, so the real benefit of the conference for us was that we got closer to the needs of our customers by talking to them about their troubles as MVNOs, MNOs and IoT MVNOs.

We share the knowledge, so here are some of the insights:

1. MVNOs need our network equipment (YateUCN as a GMSC, GGSN, PGW and YateHSS/HLR) because of the flexibility given by the features included in the Yate software and the use of off-the-shelf hardware.

In the case of the YateUCN (unified core network) the Yate software implements the functionalities of 2G/3G/4G core networks in a single server. We made it that flexible in order to ease the businesses of MVNOs and MNOs as well. YateUCN works for MNOs as MSC/VLR, SGSN, SGW.

2. full MVNOs choose our products because their businesses aren’t sustainable on the long run with big vendors’ products (such as Cisco, Huawei) that ask 4 times the costs of an YateHSS/HLR for an upgrade.

As the network grows, the CAPEX and OPEX expenditures/subscriber decreases significantly with our MVNO solutions. We charge per license and once your network grows in number of subscribers, you just add another server in a cluster. The YateUCN and YateHSS/HLR solutions are scalable, redundant and load-balanced due to the clustering module implemented in the Yate software.

3. the IoT MVNOs use our GGSN/ PGW solution (YateUCN) to offer mobility to the IoT devices and a positive return on investment for the MVNO business, within 6 months or less.
SS7ware’s full IoT MVNO network solution consists of two products, YateUCN and YateHSS/HLR, both with license costs at $31050, which is about $0.62/ device for a network of 100.000 devices.

4. the strategy of MNOs is to officially sustain MVNOs businesses, because MVNOs play well on the segmented markets and by doing this, they take market shares from competition.

Please feel free to send us questions at sales@ss7ware.com or visit our website, http://www.yatebts.com, to learn more about SS7ware’s MVNO solutions.

Hope to see you in November at the MVNO Conference in London.

SS7ware Inc.
Contact
0040-726-183-753
www.yatebts.com

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Ditch the Online Charging System

YateUCN removes the need for an Online Charging System for new LTE operators by providing a minimum Guaranteed Bit Rate (GBR) for all subscribers.

In a typical mobile network, the Online Charging System (OCS) sets a maximum allowed bit rate based on available credit to prevent high demand users from congesting the network. The OCS needs to keep track of all the pre-paid accounts of an operator’s subscribers, making it complicated and expensive.

The YateUCN EPC is the alternative that lets the operators set a minimum GBR on the default bearer. This way, it ensures that the network is usable for everyone, even in congested cells, eliminating the need for the OCS.

How it works

YateUCN, through its MME/PGW nodes, allows operators to set a Guaranteed Bit Rate for the default bearer of an UE, so the bandwidth is divided fairly to the connected subscribers supported by the same eNodeB.

Though unusual, this feature works because the eNodeB does not care which bearer is the default bearer, and the UE follows whatever bandwidth scheduling it is given by the eNodeB.

guaranteed_bit_rate_blog

The Guaranteed Bit Rate is set in the MME/PGW components of the YateUCN EPC server though a JSON API. The bit rate is then implemented by the eNodeb.

The Guaranteed Bit Rate works for local data traffic, but not for data roaming, so it is a great solution for former ISP or cable operators switching to LTE, whose main customers are fixed, non-roaming subscribers.

A few final words

Small LTE operators, former ISP or cable operators or operators switching from WiMAX to LTE, have to deal with a lot of hurdles when installing their network. The Online Charging System is one they can forget about. YateUCN allows operators to lower their CAPEX without making any changes to their OPEX, while ensuring that their subscribers have continuous access to the data network.

YateUCN, the EPC cloud

The YateUCN is an LTE EPC that unifies all the functions of a conventional LTE core network into a single server. A single YateUCN unit combines the MME, SGW, PGW, PCEF and PCRF functions. A pool of YateUCN servers provide seamless horizontal redundancy, scalability and load balancing in the LTE core network. The YateUCN also replaces the latest core network approaches to design and management, such as network function virtualization (NFV) that virtualizes the functions of the network’s nodes in software or software-defined networking (SDN) that splits the control plane from the user plane.

A conventional LTE core network has many components and each requires a back-up node for redundancy. To ensure load balancing, operators need to deploy load balancers and external servers, which only add to the complexity count.

The YateUCN servers that form the EPC cloud have a many-to-many relationship with the eNodeBs, are equal at application lever, and eliminate the single point of failure between the RAN and the core network. All these characteristics allow for horizontal redundancy, load balancing, easy management and an overall simplicity within the network.

yucn_redund_epc_2015-11-18_version1.2_compare1.1

Redundant EPC

In conventional LTE networks, all core network components (MME, SGW, PGW, PCEF, PCRF) need to be duplicated to ensure redundancy and synchronization in case of failure. With a YateUCN-based core network, operators add extra servers to the existing pool to increase the network’s overall capacity.

To achieve redundancy, subscribers get assigned to random servers from the YateUCN pool. If a YateUCN fails, all the devices served by that unit are automatically re-assigned to other available YateUCN servers, as seen in the diagram.yucn_redund_epc_2015-11-18_version1.3

LTE core network cloud

A cluster of YateUCN servers act as an LTE core network cloud, providing all the EPC services: mobility, authentication, quality of service, routing upload and download IP packets, IP address allocation and more. Mobile operators eliminate the occurrence of a single point of failure between the RAN and the core network because YateUCN servers are equal at application level, and have a many-to-many relationship with the eNodeBs.

By removing the single point of failure possibility, mobile carriers can build scalable and considerably leaner core networks, while also providing load balancing for enhanced flexibility.

Each YateUCN core network server is implemented in off-the-shelf servers commodity software (Linux), offering a shorter lead time, more servicing options and faster replacement time.

Integration in existing LTE networks

The entire LTE EPC layer is implemented in a single YateUCN unit, meaning that it replaces the MME, the SGW, the PGW, the PCEF and the PCRF units of conventional networks.

The YateUCN is compatible with any generic LTE RAN and core network component. It supports the S1-AP and GTP interfaces between its MME and SGW functions and the eNodeBs. The YateUCN uses Diameter (S6a) to connect to an existing generic Home Subscriber Server (HSS). The unified server can connect to external PGW and SGW via the S5/S8 interface. To link to an existing IMS, to the Internet or to an MMS service, the YateUCN uses the SGi interface. Finally, to interrogate an external Equipment Identity Register (EIR) about blacklisted IMEIs, the YateUCN uses S13 over Diameter.

Additionally, the YateUCN also implements the IMS functions necessary for deploying VoLTE, but this will be detailed in a future article. In the meantime, previous blog posts have detailed the YateUCN’s VoLTE call with an iPhone 6 or how the YateUCN handles SRVCC.

A few final words

A unified core network server that delivers redundancy, scalability, load balancing and flexibility allows mobile operators to tap new core network equipment innovations and reduce their CAPEX. Easily integrated in an existing LTE network, the YateUCN makes it possible for mobile carriers to optimize their networks and replace solutions typically characteristic to the recent mobile LTE deployments, such as NFV or SDN.

YateUCN – the solution for MVNO networks

With mobile consumers’ expectations on the rise, new business models proliferate. Mobile Virtual Network Operator solutions must differentiate to stay competitive and maximize their offerings.

MVNOs wishing to offer subscribers high quality voice and/or data services can use YateUCN as a GMSC (voice), a GGSN (GPRS), or a PGW (LTE data).

YateUCN supports billing integration through CAMEL, RADIUS, and Diameter.

YateUCN, the unified core network for GSM/GPRS and LTE is a software implementation of the functions and protocols from the 2G and 4G LTE core layers on a commodity server. For GSM and GPRS, YateUCN performs the functions of the MSC, VLR, SGSN, GMSC, and GGSN. From 4G LTE, it acts as an MME, SGW, PGW, and PCRF.

YateUCN can be used to operate either all of these functions (for MNOs) or one specific function (for MVNOs). Each case scenario is presented below.

mvno_yucn_2014-10-29_version1.2

  • YateUCN for voice (GMSC)

The GMSC (Gateway Mobile Switching Center) functionality serves to locate the subscriber’s HLR (Home Location Register) in a mobile-terminated call, and then to route the call. Based on the information from the originating MSC, YateUCN uses the HLR to find the MSC of the called subscriber; with the number assigned by the HLR, the GMSC then forwards the call to the destination MSC. As a GMSC, YateUCN also provides CAMEL support.

  • YateUCN for data (GGSN and PGW in a single component)

In 2G networks, YateUCN as a GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node) is responsible for establishing and maintaining the user’s IP session and for storing billing information. It routes the IP packets to the SGSN in the MNO network over GTP-C. Establishing the data session in the YateUCN core network is independent of the radio network and is performed by the same component which can act either as a GGSN or as a PGW. If a session is initiated in GPRS, the GGSN (YateUCN) will connect to the SGSN over GTP-C v1.

In an LTE network, YateUCN can act as a PGW (PDN Gateway) to assign the IP address to the UE. YateUCN only communicates with the SGW in the operator’s network (over the S8 interface) and supports both Diameter and RADIUS to connect to the charging function in the network. If the session is started in LTE, YateUCN will act as a PGW and will connect to the SGW over GTP-C v2. It is also possible for a session to be started in LTE and continued in a 2G or 3G network.

  • YateUCN for billing integration

YateUCN connects to any billing system used by the MVNO, for both voice and data sessions management. It supports the Diameter Ro interface for prepaid services and the Rf interface for postpaid billing. For real-time credit control over SIP, YateUCN implements the Diameter Credit-Control Application (RFC 4006) to connect to the MVNO’s Charging Server.

  • YateUCN for SIP users

YateUCN also offers support for PC2Call registered users.

The unified core network, YateUCN, provides a profitable and flexible solution for the different requirements of emerging MVNOs. Detailed information about how YateUCN works in 2G and 4G networks is available here.

Modernizing GSM networks – an ever difficult feat

GSM has turned 24 this year and throughout this time showed that it is invaluable for telephone calls and M2M applications. Many industry observers estimate that 2G will continue to be in use even after 3G is discontinued. But GSM networks are confronted with the difficult task of adapting to the new operating environments.

The modernization of GSM is particularly arduous when considering that equipment vendors and solutions providers have concentrated on developing components for newer networks (3G, 4G, even 5G) and less on innovating GSM network components. The SatSite is designed to serve either GSM, LTE, or mixed GSM/LTE networks working directly with the unified core YateUCN, proving that there’s still plenty of room for innovative results for GSM deployments.

The technology behind our GSM network equipment allows new techniques like radio resource sharing with LTE, running GSM from a remote radio head, applying SON or beamforming technologies, which are typical for LTE, to be applied to 2G networks. The result is a simplified and flexible network architecture, better management and reduced costs.

Spectrum sharing
The SatSite base station is based on commodity, off-the shelf,-hardware and can be software-‘switched’ to provide either GSM, LTE, or both. When running YateBTS for GSM, it communicates directly with the unified core network, eliminating the base station controller (BSC). This architecture, where the BTS connects straight to the core network and communicates to other BTS in the network over peering protocols is very similar to the architecture of LTE.

This is also what makes it possible to support multiple technologies in the same equipment. If one BTS uses the same frequency bands to provide both GSM and LTE access, operators may choose freely on how to allocate spectrum between them. Depending on the service use at a given time, operators can assign prioritize voice over data services and vice versa. We’ve detailed spectrum sharing between GSM and LTE in the SatSite here.

Self-Organizing Network
SON techniques feature dynamic self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing functions, which can be achieved due to the eNodeB not being controlled by a distinct BSC component as in the typical case of GSM. Without a BSC, SatSite base stations are able to connect to each other over peering protocols, allowing an exchange of neighbor information between units. This presentation offers more details on SON technology for mixed 2G/4G networks.

Beamforming
Beamforming relies on grouping the signals of multiple antennas and into one beam sent to a desired direction. It aims to reduce interference and obtain a better quality of a service for a certain user. Unlike MIMO, where the network sends different parts of the data stream on different antennas, beamforming combines the signals from the different antennas and sends them to one device. What’s more, as opposed to MIMO, beamforming does not require any support from the handset, making it suitable for use in any mobile network technology, be it 2G, 3G, 4G or even 5G, in the future.

Benefits of optimizing GSM networks include a better management of the network resources, reduced infrastructure costs and maintenance efforts, and the flexibility to upgrade or reprogram network functions.

GSM and LTE, 2 technologies in 1 base station

LTE for bandwidth and GSM for voice are a match made in heaven for subscribers. The roll-out however, not so much. Running them both from the same radio equipment (BTS) can be the answer. SatSite can run both YateBTS (GSM) and YateENB (LTE) at the same time, in the same spectrum, using the same radio hardware.

Software-defined BTS

This is made possible by replacing commonly used FPGA and DSP boards with one Intel Atom chipset. Both the GSM YateBTS and the LTE YateENB are modules implemented in software, allowing the base station to be reprogrammed or reconfigured to support new protocols. A base station can run GSM at first, and can be later software-upgradeable to LTE, running multiple air interface protocols using the same radio, at the same time.

Mixed 2G/4G spectrum allocation

From a spectrum point of view, as seen in the image below, the mixed GSM/LTE technology enables a base station to be software-configurable for up to 4-TRX/ARFCN. A base station can use the 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MhZ bands for both GSM and LTE, meaning that it will allocate two ARFCN to GSM and will use the remaining spectrum for LTE.

ss_mix_spectr_2015-10-6_pic1_version1.1Based on the subscribers’ activity (data vs. voice), operators can assign in software the spectrum priority for either LTE or GSM, so LTE gets a higher priority if there is a lower use of voice services. This optimizes the resources allocation in the network and supplies better access to users.

YateBTS and YateENB – Yate modules

Yate is an underlying part of the software architecture of our mixed 2G/4G RAN. It has a highly expandable architecture that provides unified management and monitoring. Both YateBTS and YateENB are software modules based on Yate. Yate’s SDR architecture enables the LTE and the GSM modules to use the same radio hardware. You can find out more about Yate’s multiple modules here.

ss_mix_spectr_2015-10-6_pic2_version1.1Yate’s SDR architecture also enabled us to replace the conventional, special purpose equipment combination of a baseband unit (BBU) + a remote radio unit (RRU), with a single unit. With this technology we implemented all the functions of both a conventional base station and a base station controller, eliminating the costly Abis interface for traffic and signaling, as well as partial functions of an Mobile Switching Center (MSC), in terms of mobility, power and frequency management and handover.

The mixed 2G/4G RAN technology is embodied in our SatSite base station. SatSite acts more like a conventional eNodeB, even when running on GSM, because it uses IP backhaul for both 2G and 4G. It also contains the IP list of all neighboring SatSite units.

Using off-the-shelf hardware and a generic operating system, SatSite embraces everything SDR stands for, and is the solution for an easy adoption of new standards or technologies, even 5G in the future.

A forecast on the evolution of radio access networks

This month we participated at an active antenna workshop in Warsaw. The event was well attended by many RAN managers, strategists and planners from various mobile operators around the world. There were also a large number of radio head and eNodeB, antenna, semiconductors and materials and test equipment vendors.

Crowded towers

There was a lot of talk about crowded towers. The majority of towers are already very crowded and at their mechanical limits. Because new equipment cannot be added, often times the only solution is that of replacing existing equipment with new antennas and radios. Since everyone in the industry wants ‘cleaner’, less crowded towers, the experts found that radio equipment capable of running on both GSM and LTE would help reduce the overall load on cell site towers.

active_anntenna_workshop

3G sunset

Within this workshop quite a few of our beliefs regarding the future of the UMTS have been confirmed:

  • In a number of markets UMTS 3G will be discontinued, while 2G will continue to stay, allowing for 2G/4G mixed networks to flourish.
  • While 2G spectrum allocation will diminish in time, GSM will still be alive and well for a while.
  • In many markets, UMTS 3G spectrum is already re-farmed for 4G LTE.

Massive MIMO?

As the workshop’s theme was the evolution of active antennas, a lot of the conversation revolved around MIMO technology and MIMO antennas. The 2×2 MIMO configuration is becoming a standard for mobile networks, and 4×2 MIMO is expected to become the standard in two to three years. There is little prospect in the industry for LTE devices to support more than 2 MIMO channels, meaning that the most practical MIMO configuration is the Nx2 variety. One of the most important current issues is that many LTE devices still don’t support MIMO.

Vertical sectorization

In terms of vertical sectorization, the consensus is that it can be useful only when combined with fast-responding self-organizing networks (SON). Vertical sectorization is only efficient when used throughout the whole network, and no just in a few cell sites. However, vertical sectorization will be obsolete once most LTE devices will support MIMO.

VoLTE perspectives from the RAN side

RAN experts present at the workshop discussed VoLTE’s slow adoption. One reason for this is that for any given cell site, the service range for VoLTE is typically smaller than that for UMTS’ or GSM’s circuit-switched service. It’s range is also limited by the overall uplink performance. However, MIMO antennas are expected to improve VoLTE’s uplink performance.

Summary

It was a pleasure to meet with so many representatives from both operators and vendors and hear their insights. To answer to the current needs of the industry, we developed combined 2G/4G software-defined radio systems. Our SatSite macro base station will support GSM and LTE independently, as well as at the same time, using a common radio access. This event was a confirmation that we are on the right track, as mixed 2G/4G networks are the future of mobile networks.