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T-Mobile and BICS both make progress with 5G SA roaming


Earlier this week, T-Mobile said it worked with two carriers — Sunrise in Switzerland and AIS Thailand — to complete 5G standalone (SA) roaming tests between the U.S. and Switzerland and between the U.S. and Thailand.


Also this week, BICS, a company that facilitates international roaming and has expertise in handovers from one carrier to another, announced that it helped AIS Thailand and stc Kuwait complete a 5G SA roaming connection.


In fact, BICS was the first company to announce a 5G SA roaming test about a year ago when it demonstrated a successful roaming connection between the Belgian mobile operator Proximus and stc Kuwait. That connection was the first of its kind to be completed in a non-lab environment.



News of these initial connections is relevant because 5G SA roaming allows customers on participating networks the ability to travel internationally while continuing to access available 5G SA networks.


BICS said that itss work with AIS and stc Kuwait delivered an international 5G roaming connection carrying data, texts and calls using 5G SA.


Frederic Matthieu, managing director and VP of sales for the Americas at BICS, said the company acts as a roaming matchmaker between operators. It’s currently connecting operators that have 5G SA networks. “I think overall we have done 17 pairs that have been matched,” he said.


He said BICS is working with AT&T, Verizon and Dish Wireless on their 5G SA roaming goals. However, T-Mobile works with BICS’ competitor Syniverse.


Matthieu said operators can also do their own matchmaking, working directly with other operators to create roaming relationships. But he doesn’t expect that to be a popular approach. Most operators with 5G SA will select a vendor like BICS or Syniverse to connect their 5G SA networks to other operators.


All the 5G SA roaming connections will use the Security Edge Protection Proxy (SEPP) protocol set out by the GSMA, which provides security for the signaling exchange between roaming mobile network operators.


In a statement, T-Mobile President of Technology Ulf Ewaldsson said the Seattle-based carrier already provides roaming benefits in more than 200 global countries and territories. 5G SA roaming will open the door for the use of emerging technologies like network slicing across global locations. 5G SA roaming will also support augmented reality and virtual reality use cases.


5G SA roaming will be particularly important for business travelers and companies with international operations. Enterprises that rely on real-time data for their operations will also benefit from SA roaming capabilities.


For its part, T-Mobile said it plans to expand its 5G SA roaming interconnections, welcoming additional operator partners abroad for 5G SA roaming services. T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier are offering a trial program for interested parties to scout their 5G SA roaming needs.


Matthieu said 5G SA roaming still has its challenges, especially in regard to matchmaking between operators “down to the handset.”

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