Wireless Networks; A smarter way to WIN

Wireless Networks; A smarter way to WIN – Technology Information

John Vice

Important new regulatory mandates, driven both by safety concerns and changing consumer preferences, are putting significant pressure on wireless service providers.

The increasingly common use of mobile phones in motor vehicles has spurred the passage of several tough new state laws against this kind of one-handed driving. Those new regulations, as well as growing subscriber awareness and demand, have pushed manufacturers and service providers to develop more convenient wireless access solutions. Now a new generation of wireless voice-activated dialing is making the everyday wireless call both simpler and safer.

Other coming changes are the direct result of federal telecommunications rules.

Today wireless subscribers make approximately 25% of all 911 emergency calls, but unlike wireline callers, the location of wireless callers cannot be immediately determined by public safety answering points. In 1994, the FCC mandated the phased implementation of enhanced 911 technology designed to identify the phone number, nearest cell site and, eventually, the precise location of the wireless emergency caller.

Local number portability (LNP) mandates, which allow customers to move or change local carriers while keeping the same phone number, are also coming to the wireless telecom marketplace. The FCC has ruled that cellular and PCS providers must deliver LNP in a phased implementation of wireless number portability capabilities to subscribers nationwide (Telephony, Feb. 22, page 44).

The advent of E911, LNP and wireless voice-activated dialing will require wireless providers to purchase and deploy various new network and peripheral technologies. The good news for carriers is that those changes are also paving the way for the future wireless intelligent network (WIN), a market with sizable growth opportunities (Figure 1).

Based on the wireline model of intelligent networking, WIN applies the concept of triggering calls from the switch to off-board platforms to deliver enhanced mobility services, including wireless voice-activated dialing and E911. By adopting a forward-looking response to market and regulatory drivers, wireless operators can meet today’s challenges while opening the door to a broad range of popular and profitable WIN services.

Smarter access Of the safety and convenience pressures now confronting wireless carriers, wireless voice-activated dialing may be the most immediate. It is now illegal in Arizona to drive while using a wireless telephone, and many other states are considering similar restrictions.

Fortunately, a new generation of wireless voice-activated dialing technology, in conjunction with hands-free kits, successfully addresses these safety concerns and legal requirements. Wireless voice-activated dialing systems use advanced speech recognition technologies, many of which use patented methods to filter background noise and enhance speech detection and recognition rates. These systems use WIN capabilities to provide safe and easy access for all subscribers even while they are roaming.

To deploy wireless voice-activated dialing, as well as other advanced services such as E911 and wireless LNP, carriers must have access to features and capabilities available primarily within a WIN environment. With growing regulatory and consumer pressure to unveil these services, carriers are taking a closer look at WIN.

How can a carrier best plan, deploy and leverage WIN technologies? Today’s most successful architectures employ switch-based WIN triggers, off-board platforms and a flexible hardware/software building block approach to deliver enhanced subscriber services.

A typical WIN architecture could use a mobile switching center where basic call processing features reside to deliver optimum network efficiencies. Depending on the nature of the services offered, a call might flow from the switch to a home location register (HLR)/authorization center or on to an off-board platform, such as the wireless service node (Figure 2).

Under this architecture, the switching platform uses WIN call processing triggers and ANSI-41 messaging to access a range of off-platform WIN services. This switch trigger approach allows optimum use of network resources while giving wireless subscribers access to the services previously associated only with wireline intelligent networks.

Traditional wireline intelligent network services that are now available in a WIN environment include calling card, virtual private networks (VPNs), prepaid, international dialing, number translations (for 800, 900 and 888 numbers) and personal number services. In addition, by leveraging the unique mobility aspect of the wireless environment, WIN technologies also deliver services such as call routing to other devices such as pagers.

The WIN triggers initiate an array of services based on call-related activities such as billing, feature requests, origination, termination, mobile and registration activities. For example, origination and termination triggers eliminate the need for subscribers to enter complicated feature codes and can provide simple access to abbreviated dialing, voice dialing and other enhanced services. Termination triggers route callers to subscriber features such as incoming call screening, group ringing and distinctive ringing. Mobility-related triggers manage roaming, and mid-call triggers detect and confirm prepaid and other enhanced service features.

The off-board platform reuses the hardware and software components deployed in a building block approach to lower WIN investment requirements while measurably reducing an operator’s service time to market. The platform is scalable to allow capacity additions and flexible enough to provide multiple applications to meet changing subscriber and market demands. Other third-party technology components can be incorporated into this WIN architecture to provide an open system design with advanced capabilities such as location-based, data and short message services.

A well-planned WIN architecture will optimize the network’s speed, capacity and operating efficiencies. Advanced release link features can be deployed to optimize the use of limited voice trunk resources. By leveraging ANSI-41 standards, WIN platforms give subscribers access to a growing menu of advanced services at home, in the office or while on the move.

Innovative WIN solutions can now be deployed for networks based on AMPS, code division multiple access or time division multiple access technology to satisfy 800 or 1900 MHz requirements. WIN platforms such as service nodes, which employ common operations, administration & maintenance components, reduce upkeep time and costs while ensuring maximum wireless quality and availability. Of course, a service node must also deliver the scalability needed to adapt quickly to changing subscriber or network needs.

Finally, wireless operators should also consider open network solutions that ensure full interoperability with third-party products and services. A reliable, open-systems approach allows third-party suppliers to integrate and test their devices and platforms before deployment. Carriers need effective third-party interoperability to ensure the smooth integration of LNP, voice mail, E911, short message services, over-the-air service provisioning and back-office solutions such as billing and network management.

A spectrum of services By understanding the flow and capabilities of a WIN solution, carriers can take the first step toward deploying a total end-to-end wireless network. They can then offer subscribers a broad new spectrum of innovative and revenue-enhancing wireless services, including the following:

Prepaid services. Prepaid is a compelling new service option for many carriers because it provides an immediate and positive revenue stream. Besides attracting the traditional credit-challenged audience, prepaid opens the door to new markets such as companies and families who want multiple wireless phones but who also want to control costs. A WIN-based solution provides a more cost-effective means to deploy prepaid service, eliminating the need for adjunct switch processors and associated voice trunks.

Wireless group conferencing. This feature allows subscribers to arrange conference calls with multiple parties by dialing a few digits. Subscribers can also set a large list of predefined groups and conference individuals into a call even while roaming.

Mobile VPNs. Service providers can leverage WIN technology to allow users to customize dialing and numbering plans to create VPNs for businesses, families, campuses or community groups. These flexible VPNs can include abbreviated dialing features that let subscribers place calls by dialing a few digits. Permissive or restrictive dialing lets users customize their own closed user groups’ calling privileges. Companies can also easily control the routing of calls on or off their corporate networks.

Information messaging services. Depending on consumer demand and network investment requirements, providers can now offer e-mail and Web page messages delivered directly to subscriber handsets via short message service, with automatic confirmation when the message has been received. Providers can partner with information suppliers to deliver virtually any kind of information, from stock quotes and traffic reports to flight information and updates about news, sports or entertainment. A WIN service node also paves the way for future data and multimedia capabilities such as text-to-speech messages via phone, Internet browsing and two-way messaging capabilities. This allows subscribers to control when, where and what information they receive.

Voice recognition services. Emerging WIN technologies leverage sophisticated voice and digit recognition capabilities to give subscribers easy access to wireless communications. Wireless voice-activated dialing enables hands-free operation while simplifying the management of personal directories that can include names and numbers, language options and basic calling services for North American and international dialing plans. By providing voice interfaces to networking components such as the HLR and other subscriber services, WIN technologies help operators offer automated personal communications assistants.

Location-based solutions. These might include additional safety-related tracking or alert services that pinpoint subscriber locations in any emergency situation. Companies might employ location-sensitive technologies to manage fleet tracking, offer home-zone billing options, provide roadside assistance or deliver location-driven consumer information from the Web, local Yellow Pages or other sources. Wireless carriers will use this capability to offer services such as location-based pricing and mobile 411 directory assistance, and to more precisely monitor and manage network performance.

Powerful regulatory, market and technological forces are now driving deployment of WIN. By taking a proactive approach to the demand for wireless voice-activated dialing, E911 and other enhanced services, wireless carriers can build WIN solutions that are flexible, economic and productive.

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