BICS introduces roaming SMS translator for post-2G/3G Era

11th April 2024
Sheryl Miles

International communications enabler BICS has launched a new solution to support international SMS on more advanced networks no longer supporting 2G or 3G technologies.

The solution supports operators who don’t support or have sunset their 2G and 3G core networks, ensuring they don’t exclude inbound roamers from networks using older SMS protocols.

The telecom market is evolving at different rates around the world. 3G is the dominant mobile technology in Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, while according to one study by Cullen International, 70% of European countries have at least one mobile operator which has shut down their 2G or 3G networks. As operators retire or ‘sunset’ legacy technology to clear the way for newer tech like 5G, this progress threatens to widen the global digital divide.

Aside from preventing a ‘roaming gap’ that leaves devices unconnected, and operators unable to monetise certain types of roaming traffic, there is another key issue from network SMS incompatibility – ‘welcome SMS’. Roamers receive these messages when they arrive in a new country, informing them of the rates for using data, calls, or SMS while abroad and providing local emergency numbers. In more and more markets, there is a regulatory requirement to send these messages. Without support for SMS from 2G/3G networks, operators not only face a loss in SMS roaming revenue but also risk affecting the monetisation of calls and data.

BICS’ Roaming SMS Translator complements the release of a similar solution in 2023 for VoLTE roaming to preserve post-sunset voice roaming. Beyond network sunsetting, however, it also solves a challenge for newer greenfield operators who have built their networks on 4G and 5G only. Such networks will experience the same problems as those which have completed sunsets. This would leave service gaps in roaming connections with operators from developing markets – leading to poor user experience for users and reduced revenue for operators.

“It’s great that telecoms is focused on adopting new technologies like 5G or 6G. However, it's essential for operators to also address any potential issues that leave people behind in the pursuit of innovation.” says Jorn Vercamert, VP Customer Solutions and Products “BICS believes a connected world is a stronger world, and is rapidly finding solutions to bridge the digital divide. Our VoLTE enabler solution released last year did this for voice services, and now SMS Translator is doing the same for SMS.”

While the types of mobile traffic (SMS, data, and calls) haven’t changed, the protocols enabling them have. This means, for example, that SMS messages are essentially delivered via different ‘languages’ on 2G networks compared to 4G. As the name suggests, SMS Translator ‘translates’ between the different generations of protocols that enable the sending and receiving of messages (like SS7 for older networks, and Diameter for newer ones.)

Without such a solution in place, operators might delay fully sunsetting their 2G/3G networks to avoid creating a compatibility gap. Operators could retire their 2G/3G Radio Access Network without creating such issues, but currently, they would need to maintain their older network cores due to the Mobile Switching Centre (MSC), which enables text messages to be received. Maintaining these MSCs just for this purpose is extremely expensive, however. BICS’ solution aims to remove that complexity from both a technical and a cost perspective, empowering operators to enable greater connectivity across borders and technological divides.

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