The IP Network Interconnect Problem and the GSMA IPX Solution

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

The IP Network Interconnect Problem and the GSMA IPX Solution

As the industry moves towards full-scale IP networks, the problem of interconnecting all these networks with the different service providers (each with their own IP networks) becomes glaringly important to resolve. And with discussions of a PSTN sunset happening in various countries around the world, full-scale seamless core IP network interconnection becomes ever more urgent. 

Additional complexity is added because we’re not just only talking about voice now.  With the change in subscriber behavior due to the increased use of smartphones and tablets, which thereby causes more and more data to be consumed (see many previous blogs on this topic), “session” based protocols become more of the norm. The interconnect issue becomes even more exacerbated than in the past when you have to take into account interconnecting both legacy TDM networks and IP networks.

Fortunately, the GSMA was looking ahead and in 2006 started an initiative to define standards for an inter-operator interconnection framework referred to as the IP Packet Exchange (IPX). They basically took the concept of the GPRS Roaming Exchange or GRX and made it service aware with a focus on quality. The IPX was envisioned to provide a framework to enable Mobile Network Operators, Fixed Line Operators and Application Service Providers to seamlessly interoperate with each other.

So why am I talking about this initiative now? Well, we talk about LTE all the time now, which is an “old” topic as well from a standards perspective. It’s implementation time! Service providers are inexorably moving to all IP and the current interworking framework was limited to primarily mobile data services and thus mobile operators, and it also had limited requirements to ensure end-to-end quality of service. We all know first-hand how we as consumers want the delivery of any service, anywhere, anytime and on any device, and IP based networks form the cornerstone to make this a reality! As IP networks and services become more and more prevalent, the concept of a framework that facilitates interconnectivity between fixed and mobile networks for any IP service is coming to the forefront. IPX was a big topic of discussion at the International Telecoms Week (ITW) in May and frankly, why I’m writing a blog or two on this topic.

Next week I’ll go into more detail about what elements and standards are required to be IPX compliant.

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