Cloud-Powered Roaming: Advancing Low-Latency Solutions with Hyperscaler's Global Reach

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By Nelson Englert-Yang | 1Q 2024 | IN-7271

The public cloud (Amazon Web Services (AWS), specifically) has become the center of two recent success stories of low-latency roaming. This ABI Insight discusses what this means within the context of a surging roaming market, and how cloud-based roaming might be implemented by Mobile Service Providers (MSPs).

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Low-Latency Roaming Powered by AWS


The public cloud has been of strategic benefit to Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) expanding commercial services into new deployment regions and markets. Now mobile operators are leveraging the global scale of the public cloud to expand outside of their commercial coverage areas for low-latency roaming. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has recently been at the center of this development, enabling Local Breakout (LBO) through its 105 Availability Zones. AWS revealed separate partnerships with roaming solution provider BICS and Canadian MSP TELUS. Both cases succeeded in using AWS’s global infrastructure to reduce latency caused by back-and-forth data traversal between a Visited Public Land Mobile Network (VPLMN) and a Home Public Land Mobile Network (HPLMN). The cases also show improvements in streamlining operations with AWS services like Direct Connect, which optimizes data transfer among the shortest paths within the AWS network. BICS is offering its low-latency roaming solution to MSPs, while TELUS has implemented AWS-powered roaming (data, voice, Short Message Service (SMS)) directly.

Public Cloud for Simpler Monetization of Roaming Services


Roaming is an evergreen source for monetization as a special service provided by MSPs. The market is also surging, led by increasing customer travel and evolving data demands amid emerging uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).  For instance, BICS’s roaming network, which accounts for nearly half of roaming globally, increased 37% in 2023 across all types of devices. Despite such opportunities for mobile roaming, monetizability can be challenged by complicated network agreements, complex routing patterns, and security vulnerabilities introduced by inter-network data transfers, especially when over legacy infrastructure.

Hyperscalers’ public cloud services are mitigating these challenges, albeit within some constraints. Agreements with visited operators will still be needed for a customer’s device communication with local radio networks. However, beyond this, the public cloud can drastically simplify network procedures, while accelerating network performance. Public cloud infrastructure can encompass Cloud-native Network Functions (CNFs) deployed from the Radio Access Network (RAN) Central Unit (CU) responsible for user-plane functions to virtual Network Operation Centers (NOC) that host control plane core network functions. This creates a cohesive network infrastructure that optimizes routing and limits reliance on local carriers’ unpredictable infrastructure. It does this within a feature-rich cloud environment, including container management and zero-trust security.

Deployment Strategy and Long-Term Investments


The public cloud will help monetize roaming; how to implement within the current constraints of network architecture and international business agreements is the key issue. The above news offers two distinct roaming approaches for consideration. There is a direct approach taken by TELUS to deploy home services abroad using the global hyperscaler network. There is also the indirect approach wherein MSPs use an international transit service, such as BICS, to bridge VPLMNs and HPLMNs, with BICS client to the public cloud. Which approach is taken will likely depend on MSPs’ tolerance for public cloud deployments of its core functions. For the majority of the current market, where most MSPs have low tolerance for such deployments or are otherwise unwilling to invest in hybridization of their network for the special case of international roaming, the use of international transit services will prevail.

We should also take findings about improved network performance within a broader context of all the promised benefits of cloud-based roaming, especially within the context of 5G. Low-latency performance is only the beginning. Cloud deployment enables many more advanced 5G roaming features specified in The 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Release 16, such as improvements to policy and Quality of Service (QoS) controls, as well as network slicing.

In any case, MSPs should position themselves for the long term to take advantage of the large and ever-increasing scale of the public cloud infrastructure. For instance, AWS is investing in cloud infrastructure: US$15 billion in Japan (by 2027), US$12.7 billion in India (by 2030), and US$5 billion in Mexico (by 2025); it is also introducing 15 more Availability Zones and adding 5 more Regions. Roaming may be a strategic method to take advantage of the geographic expanse of public cloud infrastructure, while keeping core functions on a private cloud at home.


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