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Interoperability – The Cornerstone of Next Generation Wireless Services

Introduction

The wireless data industry is undergoing a profound transformation from proprietary end-to-end systems to the best-of-breed solutions based on open standards. This transformation is driven by the improvements in the network infrastructure as well as the growing industry acceptance of Internet standards as the only way to achieve the support of the developer community and to lower the costs of ownership by fostering vendor competition.

As the industry embraces Internet standards and best-of-breed solutions, Interoperability emerges as the key requirement. ACCESS is committed to helping wireless carriers, handset manufacturers, network infrastructure and server software vendors bring to market fully interoperable client-server solutions. As the leading provider of open standards-based client software, ACCESS has created a suite of interoperability testing products and processes (IOT Suite) designed to ensure client-server interoperability.

Wireless Data Landscape

The mobile data services delivered today to consumers in the United States and Europe are supported by a network and server infrastructure that was largely introduced prior to 1999. At that time, first-to-market advantage was perceived as critical, and no market-proven solutions were available. This forced the industry to turn to providers of proprietary end-to-end solutions.

Several years of dependence on these proprietary solutions have amply demonstrated their limitations. The lack of vendor competition both on the client and the server side has lead to high costs of ownership. Furthermore, the content developer community proved reluctant to abandon the markup language used on the Internet. Today proprietary end-to-end solutions are no longer necessary, due to two major developments in the industry: network improvements and standardization.

The GPRS and 1XRTT wireless networks today provide a data bearer with sufficient data rates (up to 40 kb/s) and sufficiently large packet sizes that little modification to the standard Internet protocols (HTTP and TCP/IP) is required. The poster child of the Internet standards-based development is NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode service in Japan. I-mode service uses a packet network that was available in Japan as early as 1998. HTTP and TCP/IP profiled for the mobile environment, as well as Compact HTML, an HTML-compatible markup language initially proposed by ACCESS, formed the foundation of the original i-mode service, a service that achieved incredible grass-roots developer support.

In parallel, the standardization work of the WAP Forum led to the emergence of WAP2.0 as the dominant next-generation wireless standard. WAP2.0 is based on HTTP and TCP, and the XHTML Basic markup language (co-edited by ACCESS and standardized by W3C [6]). WAP2.0 represents a major step in protocol convergence towards open Internet-based standards and compatibility.

Open Internet-based standards have eliminated the barrier to market entry created by old proprietary solutions. Today, the wireless industry can take advantage of many options offered to it by competing technology providers. The ACCESS IOT Suite is a guarantee that end-to-end client-server interoperability can be achieved across products from different vendors.

IOT Suite

The IOT Suite is a product which provides a reference implementation of all components involved in the client-server interaction, including PC-based IOT Client Simulator, Personalized Portal, HTTP Mail Gateway, Test Content Sites, and a Gateway Simulator, controlled via a Test Manager.

The IOT Client Simulator leverages the deep relationships that ACCESS enjoys with handset manufacturers. It consists of the Windows simulation and testing environment executing the actual code of ACCESS’ CNF/CNF+ browsers ported by handset manufacturers to their handsets. Once porting is complete, the handsets are tested against the IOT Suite Backend system. A client simulator from any vendor can be used to test that vendor’s interoperability with the rest of the system.

The IOT Portal tests the user identity handling procedures (e.g. MSISDN release by the gateway) for personalization and content subscription purposes. Both “partner” and “generic” Test Content sites are provided for testing content subscriptions mechanisms and other and commercial contents from content providers can be also provisioned onto the IOT Portal for handset testing and subscription interface test between CP and IOT Portal.

The IOT HTTP Mail Gateway is provided for testing e-mail exchange functionality. The next generation of handsets coming to market in the US and Europe have sufficient capabilities for local email storage. The HTTP Mail Gateway enables a handset without POP3/IMAP4 client to send and receive email over HTTP. The HTTP-based mail transfer protocol, which has been defined by ACCESS, does not require any special handling aside from HTTP support from the Gateway Server already deployed by the wireless carrier, and can connect the handset to the back-end SMTP and POP3 or IMAP4 mail servers of operators an/or ISP.

Advanced IOT

Foreseeing the future multimedia service proposal, an advanced IOT Suite version has been released to cope with extended services like DoCoMo’s i-mode services evolution.

  • SSL
  • JAVA
  • Extended Email

Advanced IOT Suite proposes an enhanced system to test the new mobile multimedia devices coming to the market.

As MMS is being launched all around Europe, interoperability between MMS and other multimedia services is a strong requirement. MMS interoperability issue is also addressed by ACCESS as described in “MMS TrialSuite” white paper.

Based on IOT Suite and MMS Trial Suite, ACCESS proposes a large panel of system configuration to accommodate carrier-specific requirements in terms of end-to-end testing and service interoperability validation.

IOT Benefits

Reference

The IOT Suite provides a reference implementation of the end-to-end system deployed by the wireless carrier. It is customized to accommodate carrier-specific requirements and gives the carrier full ownership over communication and application-level protocols necessary for client-server interaction.

Test Bed

IOT Suite provides a standard test bed for new components introduced into the system and can co-exist with a production network environment. New handsets are tested against the IOT back-end prior to being released into the production environment. New content partners verify their implementation of the user subscription/removal procedures using the IOT Personalized Portal.

Time-to-Market

The IOT Suite significantly reduces the time-to-market for wireless services and allows for independent testing of all components involved. It thus creates a level playing field for products based on Internet-compatible standards and supplied by best-in-class vendors.

Extended services

IOT advanced version enhances the testing environment in order to address further issues like extended service validation and MMS interoperability.

Conclusion

The next generation of wireless services is based on Internet-compatible communications protocols that allow timely best-of-breed solutions. Besides compliance with these low-level standards, vendors must address application level interoperability to bring a successful wireless service to market. Client-server interoperability is the cornerstone of the next generation wireless services. Achieving and guaranteeing end-to-end interoperability requires formal testing and certification methods available to vendors in a timely fashion. ACCESS and its partners are addressing the interoperability demands of the wireless carriers through a testing framework based on the IOT Suite developed by ACCESS. Our joint efforts in interoperability assurance will guarantee the health and prosperity of the wireless data market.