By Bill Dudley, Group Director, Product Management, Operator Services

Sybase Inc., an SAP Company

The world as we know it is changing. Fast. The mobile space, in particular, is exploding with possibilities. New types of communication are converging with new kinds of connected devices, new technology and new trends. People across the world are rapidly adopting the mobile lifestyle.

A United Nations study from earlier this year estimated that 67 percent, two-thirds of the world's population (of almost seven billion) owns a cell phone. What's possibly even more staggering is that number is up 10 percent from a similar study released just one year before. That's seven hundred million new mobile phone owners in one year.

Analysts are predicting that the number of cell phones will surpass the world's population in five years, and that mobile devices will be the world's primary tool for connecting to the Internet in less than ten years.

All this innovation and change translates into huge opportunities for mobile operators to expand mobile business through new services including voice chat, video conferencing, mCommerce, mCRM and couponing, just to name a few.

Take mCommerce, for example. Right now, the average money transfer takes 3-5 days to get from sender to receiver, but the average text message only takes 10-12 seconds. Isn't it just a matter of time before the two-thirds of the Earth's population with cell phones will start using messaging for financial services?

Opportunities also bring challenges. For these new IP services to succeed on a large scale, they need a managed Quality of Service (QoS). Here's the bad news: Internet and TCP/IP aren't always up to the task. The good news: IPX is.

IPX: The Future of Mobile Services

Consumers want all their mobile services wherever they happen to be. Yankee Group is describing this new mobility landscape as the “Anywhere revolution” where everyone is constantly connected to everything that matters to them. If mobile operators and service providers want to stay competitive, they will need to optimize their service delivery environments to keep up with the evolving industry, end-user demands, and a shift to converged communications, Internet, media and entertainment-centric service strategies.

IPX is the foundation that delivers this “anywhere” vision. The next logical step in mobile technology infrastructure, IPX is a global, multi-tenant network that enables IP transport and interoperability for today's 3G networks, as well as future generations of mobile and fixed networks. Better security, quality, and revenue opportunities are the three main differences between IPX and the Internet, creating a private, premier environment for mobile services. IPX delivers real-time information through a single secure connection.

This single connection is a key value proposition. Many mobile service providers face the challenge of having multiple interconnects, complicating operations and costing more. An IPX supplies a single interconnect for all your services, delivering both cost savings and performance improvement.

IPX Defined

IPX stands for Internetwork Packet eXchange. It's the most extensive, high quality telco-grade network for trans-operator services available today. If you think of the Internet as an open marketplace, IPX is like a members-only club.

IPX is more secure because it's a transparent IP network that is completely separate and not addressable from the Internet. End-user devices have absolutely no visibility into the IPX. Security is a major obstacle where mCommerce is concerned.

IPX offers better quality control because it's a premium environment that manages traffic with QoS levels and performance to mutually agreed-upon Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

IPX also provides better revenue opportunities and distribution for all operators in the ecosystem. Hub-based services make the IPX service-aware, which enables one-to-many connectivity and also manages the flow of information necessary for SLA reporting and completing financial settlements between participating operators.

Bandwidth on IPXs is dedicated for specific purposes, including, but not limited to: · Roaming signaling (the signaling traffic that is moved from a visited network to the home network, when you do something as simple as turn on your handset after landing at an airport) · SMS and MMS · Data roaming · Voice transport (that is, dedicating IP bandwidth to transport multiple voice calls between operators) · Secure connectivity to Research in Motion (RIM) servers for Blackberry® services.

Mobile operators embraced the IPX concept for international data roaming 10 years ago with GPRS Roaming eXchange (GRX). They are now adopting it for all international voice-interconnect traffic. IPX is similar to GRX; think of it as an evolution of the GRX concept.

IPX Now and Where IPX Can Take Us

International voice transport over IPX is an immediate opportunity that Sybase IPX 365 is addressing. In 2010, TeleGeography estimated the market to have 350 billion international voice minutes, growing by about 10 percent year-over-year, and that international mobile originating traffic will be about 50 percent of all voice traffic by 2011.

Conversion to IP and transport of multiple voice calls requires premium quality of service and security - factors that make an IPX a very good candidate. In fact, this international traffic will likely move to IPX, or an IPX-like network, starting with mobile originating traffic.

Looking ahead, I see a future where mobile operators that use an IPX to interconnect core services such as voice and messaging have an advantage over services and operators that don't, and stay competitive in a network-neutral future.

In the next few years, we're going to see a migration from SS7 to IPX or IPX-like networks. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. Eventually, IPX will probably replace long-distance carriers entirely because IPX-like networks will be cheaper and provide better quality. IPX will certainly play a role in the fixed/mobile convergence.

And voice and messaging are only the beginning. The ability to leverage the IPX as a transport from cloud-based services to multiple network operators will help network operators offer new classes of services that further leverage their 3G and 4G networks. I envision an ecosystem where operators will be able to compete on new services beyond voice, beyond video, beyond messaging and who has the most reliable 3G network.

Just as the iPhone and social networking have done, IPX will change the conversation. It will enable secure mCommerce services such as payments, purchase, transfers, ticketing, and couponing; location-based services and advertising; and mBanking - as well as services we haven't even thought of yet - for the two-thirds of the world's population that now carries a mobile phone. If the technological leaps in this industry of late have taught us anything, they've taught us to not get attached to the status quo.

As was first stated, IPX has been an exclusive club for telco operators and service providers and we will certainly continue to position it in that light; however, services like Sybase IPX 365 are very much adaptable for key enterprises, and even more specifically, should become one of the preferred connectivity channels for high-value mCommerce applications. If we look at the RIM connectivity model as a guideline to connect operators to highly secure, cloud based services, leveraging secure and high QoS characteristics of the IPX, then we can apply the same model for mCommerce and even mCRM applications. With this type of model, participating operators benefit from the ability to offer additional solutions to their subscribers, and the Enterprises benefit in the knowledge that their key services are secure and reaching partner operators over the highest quality network available.

IPX is the solid foundation that will carry us into the future. Are you ready?