GSMA WAS event in Marrakech

You might be wondering what LTE-M, VoLTE and RCS have in common and the answer is simple. They were all hot topics in last week’s WAS#6 in Morocco.

The Red City at the base of the Atlas Mountains might only be a short flight away from Europe, but you find yourself in a completely different world, colourful, exciting and mysterious. Marrakech is Morocco’s third largest city filled with history. Writers and artists have been going there for decades and in the sixties it became a firm favourite on the hippy trail. These days, tourism is the main business, and as huge hotel complexes are going up in the suburbs of the city it was easy to see why Morocco is a great destination for a GSMA WAS meeting.

There’s always a great buzz about GSMA WAS meetings. The twice-yearly events bring together MNOs from all four corners of the globe and some of the industries most interesting vendors to discuss roaming and interconnect. This is the meeting where decisions are made on the future of MNOs core revenue streams and new revenues that are emerging. As long standing members of WAS, I was joined by Debbie Wilkins, our new General Manager for the African region, to meet MNOs and introduce them to UROS’ latest device portfolio and innovative Goodspeed Roaming App.

Day 1 of WAS opened with an update on the GSMA Connected Living Program, a long-term project of the GSMA that focuses on the Internet of Things. It was interesting to hear Cameron Dunn (AT&T) present on the implementation of Low Power Wide Area Solutions such as LTE-M. As we reported a few weeks ago, LTE-M is an exciting new IoT solution, which specifically helps with devices used in deep-indoor situations such as energy meters supporting the smart grid. It’s likely that in the future LTE-M will only support about 10% of all IoT devices but there’s a lot of work for MNOs to do to bring that to fruition, including new agreements to support it.

The next focus of the meeting was around “Moving to an all IP World Implementations” that concentrated on the great progress made by LTE, the challenges with VoLTE and on RCS (Rich Communication Services). It was clear that despite there being a big debate in the past over which direction VoLTE would go, it seems like the home routing scenario for VoLTE remains the preferred option. While some MNOs still like the idea that the calls should break out to the local network, home routing is the most used and successful of the two models.

Telefónica Spain provided the group with an update on work to simplify the current IP charging models in the desire to increase RCS Interconnections. Sometimes called SMS 2.0 or Rich Communication, RCS has emerged as the potential next evolution of SMS and specifically a key contender for A2P SMS style services in the future. Think of it as an android iMessage and you are getting close to what could be big business for MNOs, if it becomes as adopted as we expect.

By Wednesday the event was well on its way. The morning session began with the Future Networks programme including information on RCS Interconnection rollouts worldwide, thoughts regarding VoLTE and current work on Network Slicing and 5G. 5G roaming is still something far from being launched, but even so with over 60 MNOs globally working on 5G trials it was interesting to imagine that 5G roaming will be with us before long.

The meeting closed Thursday with a working session on Roaming Quality and work that has taken place to update the Roaming Service Level Agreement processes and to allow for MNOs to work closer with their roaming partners on quality aspects.

All in all, it was an eventful and important week in telecoms. If I had to describe this event in one word, I would say “evolutionary”. So it made perfect sense that it should be held in a place with as much energy and vibrancy as Marrakech.

We look forward to the WAS#7, which will be for the 3rd time in Dubai. Until then from the UROS team we hope to meet you soon. Our next event will be AfricaCom in Cape Town, in the beginning of November.