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Unlicensed Mobile Access

Published on Apr 02, 2024


During the past year, mobile and integrated fixed/mobile operators announced an increasing number of fixed-mobile convergence initiatives, many of which are materializing in 2006.

The majority of these initiatives are focused around UMA, the first standardized technology enabling seamless handover between mobile radio networks and WLANs. Clearly, in one way or another, UMA is a key agenda item for many operators.

Operators are looking at UMA to address the indoor voice market (i.e. accelerate or control fixed-to-mobile substitution) as well as to enhance the performance of mobile services indoors. Furthermore, these operators are looking at UMA as a means to fend off the growing threat from new Voice-over-IP (VoIP) operators.

However, when evaluating a new 3GPP standard like UMA, many operators ask themselves how well it fits with other network evolution initiatives, including:


o Soft MSCs

o IMS Data Services


o IMS Telephony

This whitepaper aims to clarify the position of UMA in relation to these other strategic initiatives. For a more comprehensive introduction to the UMA opportunity, refer to "The UMA Opportunity," available on the Kineto web site (

Mobile Network Reference Model

To best understand the role UMA plays in mobile network evolution, it is helpful to first introduce a reference model for today's mobile networks. Figure 1 provides a simplified model for the majority of 3GPP-based mobile networks currently in deployment. Based on Release 99, they typically consist of the following:

o GSM/GPRS/EDGE Radio Access Network (GERAN):

In mature mobile markets, the GERAN typically provides good cellular coverage throughout an operator's service territory and is optimized for the delivery of high-quality circuit-based voice services. While capable of delivering mobile data (packet) services, GERAN data throughput is typically under 80Kbps and network usage cost is high.

o Circuit Core/Services:

The core circuit network provides the services responsible for the vast majority of mobile revenues today. The circuit core consists of legacy Serving and Gateway Mobile Switching Centers (MSCs) providing mainstream mobile telephony services as well as a number of systems supporting the delivery of other circuit-based services including SMS, voice mail and ring tones.

o Packet Core/Services:

The core packet network is responsible for providing mobile data services. The packet core consists of GPRS infrastructure (SGSNs and GGSNs) as well as a number of systems supporting the delivery of packet-based services including WAP and MMS.

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