Nathan Bell: Using IP and IPX, operators can offer services
that their customers will take with them when they
Residents of Australia and Hong Kong are avid travellers, so
LTE users are a perfect test-bed for data roaming on the new
Telstra Global is rolling out its new IPX (Internetwork Packet
Exchange) service to 4G mobile operators worldwide having
designed the platform - which enables application and content
providers to exchange content with operators in this new all-IP
mobile world. The service was developed with the close
collaboration of two of the Telstra Group's companies, the
domestic mobile business in Australia and the Telstra
majority-owned operator, CSL - both in the vanguard of LTE
"This is something that is providing mobile operators with a
great opportunity," says Nathan Bell, director of global
portfolio and marketing at Telstra Global, the worldwide
services arm of the leading Australian operator, Telstra
IPX technology is becoming increasingly vital in this all-IP
world. Initially the term was used for the facilities that
allow fixed IP-based networks to interconnect, but the concept
has spread over the past year or so because LTE networks, which
are inherently IP-based, have started up in many parts of the
"There are many different types of IPX platform," says Bell.
"In fact, we sometimes think there are as many varieties of IPX
as there are of tulips. It's a very diverse marketplace."
And IPX is an essential part of the product and service mix for
any active wholesale operator as the 4G world develops. Roaming
in the 3G market is handled by GRX technology - GPRS roaming
exchanges. "GRX providers have to go to IPX," says Bell. "They
are being forced to move to IPX out of necessity due to the
evolution of mobile operators towards LTE."
That's where he believes Telstra Global has a rare advantage.
In addition to the Telstra Group's two in-house LTE operators
that provide Telstra Global executives with insight into the
requirements for IPX services, it has also expanded its
discussions to include mobile companies outside the Group. Four
of them have already signed up to use IPX, says Bell. "We hope
to make an announcement towards the end of the year," he says.
And the company is in active discussions with others, he adds.
The data explosion is driving the need for advanced facilities
such as the IPX service - especially when mobile users move
outside their home territories and expect to take their data
services with them.
That's another factor that gives Telstra Global a particular
advantage, says Bell. "It's in the nature of the average
Australian to travel offshore," he smiles, "and then we have to
think of the vast multicultural nature of the Hong Kong
market." Residents of both countries are avid travellers - and
so Telstra's and CSL's customers are a perfect test-bed for the
effectiveness of data roaming on the new LTE services.
But the all-IP nature of LTE is changing other relationships,
he notes - including those with over-the-top players, which are
forming close relationships with mobile users that threaten to
remove the mobile operators' opportunity to earn revenue from
"Operators want to move to IP so they can do things
differently," says Bell. Using IP and IPX, they can offer
services that their customers will take with them when they
travel - and IPX will also allow operators to work with content
providers in a way that challenges the OTT companies.
"We see multiple aspects of the IPX service," says Bell. First,
it will redefine partnerships. There are already a number of
big international alliances between mobile operators,
especially in Asia. Sometimes it's hard for operators outside
those alliances to get access to the services they want.
But the IPX service will give challenging operators the
opportunity to select their partners in different countries,
says Bell, "maybe picking a tier two operator in one country,
or even an MVNO. This can reignite the whole discussion of what
the traveller wants from the mobile experience."
Excitingly, it means that a mobile operator will be able to
offer its customers advanced services that they can still
experience when travelling, he notes. "We're talking of the
mobile equivalent of high-definition voice or of telepresence,"
says Bell. "Imagine having that on your mobile phone."
For an operator, "that would be a game changer", he says, as
users start to demand high-quality services - and then use them
for longer, earning the operator much more revenue.
"But we see that as a short-term gain and an evolution of what
people already use. The really big benefits will come later."
Those benefits will help LTE operators recoup some of the
investment that they have put into their 4G networks, he says.
"They will be able to define their own value add. That's what
the OTT companies are looking for already as they earn
additional revenue and start the perception that they own their
What sort of services are he and his colleagues at Telstra
Global thinking of, when they talk of benefits that could be
implemented via the IPX service. Bell gives a few examples of
the way the team is thinking at the moment - there are gaming
companies in China, he says. "And we're referring to
personalised social media, offering cross-platform services." A
Skype user could take part in a WebEx conversation, for
"These sorts of features are attractive, but the challenge that
operators have is that they don't have the budget to build
these things themselves."
But with a central IPX service, Telstra itself could host the
facilities and offer them to mobile operators across the world
for their own customers, on a pay-as-you-use basis. "That's the
sort of thing we're testing out now," he says.
"We're also planning a video distribution service," Bell adds.
He's talking about various levels of video - both personal and
professional - as well as full-scale TV broadcasts.
"With an all-IP network we can use its great capabilities to
improve the quality of experience that service providers can
offer their customers who pay a premium charge. That's what
will give the service providers some capability to recover the
cost of their investments in LTE."
And these facilities will allow mobile operators to move into
new markets - even challenging fixed-line operators in the
enterprise markets, he says. "Many mobile operators do not have
a presence in the fixed market, but the Telstra Global IPX
service will allow them to enter the enterprise space. An
operator won't even need to invest in much equipment, but it
will be able to add incremental value to the offer."
The idea is that Telstra Global's IPX service will host the
enterprise service, and mobile operators that are connected to
it will be able to offer services based on the platform to
their own customers.
In addition to the four operators that are signed up, Bell and
his team are talking to another eight. "We also have two
content providers we are engaging with and we are talking to
"We're using the early stages of the operation to report and
track what services people are using, and what values they are
getting from them. We're linking the IPX service to our own
Of course, we're still in the very early days of LTE, but
there's an increasing optimism in the industry that this will
be an enabler of a huge number of advanced services and drive
mobile to the next level of operations. Bell is at one with
that view. "We see that LTE is becoming a big enabler," he
Telstra's heartland is clearly in the Asia Pacific region, but
the brand - as the Telstra Global name implies - has a
worldwide presence and Bell intends that the IPX service will
be available everywhere. "We have teams in the US and Europe.
Of course, there is huge excitement in Asia and that's where
everybody is focusing, and our aim is to help our global
customers continue to expand."
The all-IP business will enable services to be global, and the
new IPX services will allow the LTE operators above all to
offer a new era of advanced services to their customers.