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 deployment.
"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
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 advanced services.
"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
"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
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
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 customer engagement."
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 example.
"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
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 billing systems."
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 says.
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
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.