Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why not allow local roaming within country when an operator network fails

Ok, I agree this is not going to be easy to live without Mobile network for hours. Atleast in Singapore. Where people use 2.3 Peta Bytes a month, spend on an average 6 hours on mobile phone (calls), and carry 2 or more connections to be online all the time.

From the news itself I recall there are more than 

Minister says Telcos should raise their game during disruptions. But mere 'communication' doesnt help solve the problem. One way is to use a Dual-SIM card with multiple numbers but this is going to be expensive and cumbersome to maintain two different numbers. Perhaps future technology may allow a 'soft-sim' where the single SIM card can allow dynamically change the service provider. But until then a more practical way to let the affected parties roam to another operator could help.

So the 'national roaming' - how does this going to help and what are the challenges. I have seen this approach by many countries in developing nations. Especially in India, it is very common since the 2G nation wide launch in early 1990's. This was started mainly from coverage point of view, but slowly operators realized that they can share the resources to scale. The case in Singapore differs slightly and for us coverage may not be a big issue (though i still have plenty of dark spots or blind spots throughout my mobility areas)

From resiliency point of view, there is a good paper from European Union here. This is more in tune with our requirements in Singapore. So what happens is very simple

When the M1 network goes down (be it nation wide or specific areas), the subscribers can automatically switch over to SingTel or StarHub networks assuming it is a Radio network failure or Radio(core) nodes failure at central exchange. The billing can be settled based on Inter-op agreements or via a central party.

If in case of other failures like the Data centric nodes failure, the voice network still works but customer suffer no data connectivity. Again , depending on the scenario a subscriber may be roamed in to backup network. Technically this is more complicated and need many cases to be explored. So I doubt this can happen in Singapore. But for the basic voice connectivity and SMS connectivity should be supported.

Today most of the 2G networks are under utilized given the fact that 90+% subscribers running on 3G or LTE. So until IDA decides and takes back the spectrum or Operators decide to close the 2G toally, they can use the 2G as a backup network to roam. Basically this is for voice + SMS which 2G does a great job.

Any thoughs...