Pieter Veenstra, Senior Manager, Product Development for Routing and Security, NetNumber

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the 5G World Summit during the “Securing the Future Networks” Premium Track. While I am the Product Development Manager for Routing and Security at NetNumber, I am also the Chair of the GSMA 5GMRR (Mobile Roaming Revisited) Task Force. I presented the key learnings from this task force. In this blog, I summarize why and how the solutions for 5G Roaming are being redefined in the GSMA and what’s coming next.

Why the GSMA is revisiting the solution for 5G standalone roaming

The SS7 and Diameter signaling protocols used to build 2G, 3G and LTE networks do not provide in-built protection against threats related to mobile roaming. This resulted in security, privacy and fraud issues that forced mobile operators to implement signaling firewalls to protect their networks and subscribers against such attacks.

This changes fundamentally with 5G as this is the first mobile system developed based on the “Security by Design” principle. However, today’s 5G networks are still dependent on the signaling networks built on SS7 and Diameter. While much has been written and promised about the many security improvements with 5G, these promises only come to fruition when roaming is between 5G Core networks in 5G Stand-Alone (SA) mode.

However, begin last year some IPX carriers raised concerns that the 3GPP standards for 5G, which describe two technical incompatible solutions for 5G SA roaming, are too complex to operate and do lack the specific details for the support of Roaming Hubbing and Roaming Value Added Services.

This was acknowledged in a survey among mobile operators and IPX carriers, and as a result, the GSMA formed the 5G Mobile Roaming Revisited (5GMRR) task force with the mission to define a scalable, usable and secure 5G roaming solution that addresses the intersection between the needs for the business model and roaming contracts, that can simply be operated, and provides a secure solution for privacy and data protection.

Strong Desire for a Single Deployment Model

The 5GMRR task force is asked to define a single approach with detailed technical and business deployment guidelines for 5G mobile roaming. Three different working groups within the GSMA are involved—experts from the Networks Group (NG), the Wholesale Agreements and Solutions Group (WAS) and the Fraud and Security Group (FASG).

We are also taking into consideration the issues of outsourcing remote management of the Security Edge Protection Proxy (SEPP), the border element of a 5G Core network, considering different regional and national regulatory perspectives. In addition, the 5G SA solution will be accompanied with a key management procedure as an elementary part of the encrypted signaling transfer with the “Security by Design” approach.

What’s Coming Next

This month, the task force will deliver the documentation for 5GMRR Phase 1 that offers the mobile industry the guidelines for a bilateral 5G SA roaming solution as the first use case into the formal approval process. This process is expected to take the remainder of the year. We will continue to work on the more complicated use cases with 5GMRR Phase 2 with the solutions for Roaming Hubbing and Roaming Value Added Services.

If you’d like to learn more about the work of the GSMA 5G MRR Task Force and how NetNumber will be implementing the recommendations, send me a note via info@netnumber.com.


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