Mobile Europe reports from onboard the first GSM-equipped ship in Europe

by Richard Thurston
Onboard the SeaFrance Rodin

Whilst many mobile operators have obtained 99% population coverage of most West European countries, there still remains a large hole in the coverage map for customers on the move.

Calls made while stationary have largely been catered for, but calls made in transportation are creating a whole new challenge for operators, whether that be by air, rail or road.

Orange has been one of the leading providers in providing coverage for travelling customers.

It has already equipped an underground rail system in Newcastle (north-east England) with GSM coverage and is trialling a system of using directional antennae to provide end-to-end coverage through the UK's railway tunnels.

Its latest project is somewhat different, in that it aims to provide blanket coverage across the Channel sea between England and France.

Much of the Channel is currently a blackspot, due to the distance between the two countries, and the legal necessity for the English and French networks not to overlap.

But Orange has significant advantage in owning a network in both countries.

To aid coverage across the Channel, it has optimised one basestation on each coastline so the signal propogates further into the Channel.

It has also installed two repeaters on board its first trial ship, the SeaFrance Rodin.

Each repeater -- one for the English network and one for the French network -- amplifies the signal received from the respective coastline.

Both repeaters are connected via coax cable to mini-antennae located throughout the ship, which provides the coverage to travellers in most locations on the ship.

The antennae are necessary because of the quantity of metal in the ship's structure, which would otherwise hinder coverage.

Because each country's regulations state that there must be no crossover of the networks, the system is set up so that users should automatically link to Orange UK in the English
half of the Channel, while when they cross the frontier into French waters, they should switch to Orange France.

Our results

Our reporter took a phone containing an Orange UK SIM and a phone with a T-Mobile UK SIM on the ship from Dover, England, to Calais, France.

The Orange UK network was extended far out into the Channel, whilst the T-Mobile UK network dropped out significantly earlier.

In fact, so strong was the amplified Orange UK signal that our reporter's handset did not roam onto the French network virtually until his arrival into the port of Calais.

It was further possible to manually select the Orange UK network once docked in Calais, and upon the return, to connect to Orange France in Dover.

This poses some fascinating questions for the regulators of each country, Ofcom in the UK and France's Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR).
Our reporter's SIM also chose to switch to SFR for part of the return journey.

However, the project was overall highly successful, and the T-Mobile SIM enjoyed Orange France coverage for much of the remainder of the journey after it lost its UK network.

Results summary

Dover-Calais (42km)

0mins -- Near perfect network coverage for both networks

25mins (England/France boundary) -- Orange UK signal is strong boosted by the onboard repeater; T-Mobile UK network present but slipping

35mins (French waters) -- Orange UK network still strong; T-Mobile network still present

39mins -- Incoming call to T-Mobile SIM. Call completed but most of conversation indiscernible.

40mins -- Incoming SMS received to T-Mobile SIM.

43mins -- both networks weaken considerably

51mins (1km from French shoreline, ship turns and heads parallel to shoreline) -- Call made successfully over OrangeUK network

55mins -- Call impossible over T-Mobile UK network. T-Mobile network dropped, and does not roam.

63mins -- Call impossible over Orange UK network, does not roam. T-Mobile UK SIM has roamed onto Orange France.

68mins -- Orange UK SIM roams onto Orange France.

69mins -- Arrival in port of Calais. Orange UK SIM returns to Orange UK network.


9mins -- Orange UK SIM roams back onto Orange France.

10mins -- Orange UK SIM chooses SFR (France) network.

14mins -- Orange UK SIM switches back to home network.

69mins -- Arrival in Dover. Orange France network still available.

Mobile email not necessarily good for all devices

Wireless email vendor Smartner says it has added four operator customers in the past month, within Europe, bringing to 15 the total number of operators who are customers.

Ari Backholm, executive vice-president products and marketing at the company said that the company now had a clear number two position in Europe, just behind Blackberry, at 50,000 users. The company has also added three more European offices in Munich, madrdid and to support coming growth, he added.

But he was honest about the overall size of the market. "If we are at 50,000 and a market leader then the market doesn’t exist," he said, placing those numbers into context in terms of the overall mobile market.

In many cases, operators are supporting both Blackberry, as a Blackberry and Smartner, Backholm said. The Blackberries are being sold under their own brand, but the operators are using Smartner to power the own-label XDA type devices also on offer. As Smartner is brand-invisible at the UI this can suit operators and handset manufacturer.

This is the approach Vodafone Italy, recent win Telefonica Moviles and long-standing customer O2 have taken. One operator that doesn’t support Blackberry is Germany’s E-Plus, but it is the only operator in its market that doesn’t, so was keen to have a competitive solution, Backholm said.

Backholm said that there had been a shift within operators away from supporting email on every client, to providing a really good service on just a few terminals. This would then increase as more and more phones at lower levels of the market begin to be Windows Mobile and Symbian/ Series 60 based. Smartner also has agreement with SonyEricsson to support the client on its P900 feature phone, and is looking for more following a March agreement to support the Symbian OS.

If the mass market is to be cracked, then having the kind of push email and active sync functions on Java phones will probably be crucial. Backholm said Smartner is experimenting with Java phones but so far had found that users would lose the always functionality, because the phones can’t support the client running in the background as it executes other applications. It could work if the client was embedded in the phone, pre-sale, but for the OTA download, which is really where mobile email vendors see themselves, that full functionality would not be possible, he admitted.

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We're ahead of the competition

3 UK’s network has seen a 250% increase in voice traffic in the past five months, and data traffic up from between 180-300%, depending traffic spikes. MMS traffic has risen 300% in the same period, David Cooper, chief technical officer for the network told journalists at  a briefing yesterday.

Although data traffic overall, including SMS, only accounts for 15% of the traffic on 3’s network, Cooper said that data traffic has at times surged ahead, as the operator has launched new content.

Cooper also defended the 15% number, relatively low for a mobile operator, especially a 3G operator, saying that 3 were ahead of other operators in terms of the amount of content-driven usage they are generating.

"The increase [in data traffic] depends entirely on content," he said. "The amount of pages we serve is dramatically higher than anything you will see from other operators."

He also said it paid to bear in mind 3’s high ARPU’s (up around £44 per month as opposed to the industry average of £24) meant that any increase in data take-up meant a proportionate rise in margin to the operator.

Nokia’s Esa Harju, director of marketing for Nokia Networks, an infrastructure supplier to 3, said that by 2008 he expects to see about 10-20% of operators’ revenues coming from content related services. Around 10% would be accounted for by person to person messaging, Harju said, giving an overall data percentage of around 30%

Harju claimed that the radio network side of 3G had now been largely solved. The real issues were going to be around terminals ("Any new technology needs a good portfolio of attractive devices to drive uptake") and "creating new value systems."

"We have learnt how to truly commercialise WCDMA networks," he said. "It’s been a learning exercise for both of us, and we have had to be realistic and pragmatic about our service update. But we remain convinced this market will be as good as we thought it would be." Harju said.

Cooper said that 3 is now over its initial problems at both network and terminal level. The operator now has all the back end systems in place to introduce new services, running across either its packet switched or circuit switched core, relatively smoothly, he said.

"We have enhancements in our messaging platform [provided by Logica CMG, Mobile Europe learnt] which will drive increased revenues. For streaming services we have all the encoding sorted out depending on which terminal we are serving," he said. "It’s all about getting the download time down."

Cooper said that from tenders in the market, he thinks Vodafone, Orange and O2 are having the same network optimisation problems that 3 has had. The difference is that 3 has in place its IT architecture to take advantage of the radio and core network infrastructure, he said. It made service creation "fairly easy", he added.


In terms of future development, both Harju (as you’d expect) and Cooper (as you’d expect with his main supplier in the room) doubted that the upgrade to HSDPA (a technology that raises the downlink speed of a 3G network) would present an opportunity for rival vendors to win back contracts from operators with an incumbent supplier.

"HSPDA is a software upgrade, and we may have to load the odd extra card," Cooper said, "so the cost is relatively minimal. The base infrastructure stays the same — so you can work it out for yourself," he hinted.

Harju added that as the upgrade was really a radio interface issue, it was "a bit strong" to say that introducing the technology was an entry point for rival vendors. 

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3 UK

Another day, another operator-led partnership formed with the intention of imposing some harmony on the fractured world of the mobile vendor community.

This time it is the device manufacturers who will be the target of attempts by operators to create standard application interface requirements for mobile device platforms. Several operators, the founding members being mmO2, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, SMART Communications, Telefónica Móviles, Telecom Italia Mobile, T-Mobile and Vodafone, have formed the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP).

The OMTP's launch release, put it like this:
"The OMTP group aims to define those platform requirements necessary for mobile devices to deliver openly available standardised application interfaces that will provide customers with a more consistent and improved user experience across different devices, whilst also enabling individual operators and manufacturers to customise and differentiate their offering."

What that means is that operators are looking for more commonality of user experience across all devices for a given application. In other words, if the operator is offering an application they dont want to have to necessarily spend a lot of time configuring it, encoding it, delivering it in dozens of different ways to all the different devices on the network.

But this isnt about standardising the devices or the applications themselves. The aim instead is to provide operators with a way to deliver their own unique services, but in a standardised way across different devices.

At first sight, of course, it looks as if one of the handset vendors' own differentiators, useability, might be taken away from them if these standards are formulated and operators insist on them. But operators Mobile Europe has spoken to have said they don't want to take things to that level, but rather get some grip on the application interfaces themselves, which is a different kettle of fish.

The number of services and applications currently on offer is far less than operators expect to have in the next three years, when IP subsystems will be supporting the growth of hundreds of application a year. If operators want to deliver a consistent brand experience to their users then they will need to know how an application is going to behave on a given device, without having to re-code and configure the application depending on which device is hitting the application server.

3 UK's CTO David Cooper said that 3 is considering joining the alliance. "A lot of this is about messaging," he said. "In terms of interoperability there must be a minimum spec. Every terminal is different and we have to do a whole load of transformation in the network, so it is in our interests to get some common standards."

The OMTP says it will publish first draft requirements in October this year. They will be technology agnostic, the operators insist, meaning that they will not favour one mobile OS over the other. Time will tell.

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Open Mobile Terminal Platform

Greek 0operator has met its deadline of providing both 3G and i-mode services by the time the Olympic Games kick off in late summer.

The operator launched i-mode services on 7 June, using phones and service platform from NEC. The service uses the NEC N 331i, N 400i,  N 410i and the Panasonic P 341i phones, and NEC's Mobile Internet Platform to provide services.
The platform consists of portal and mail gateways as well as subsytems to manage service introduction and billing.
Cosmote customers do not pay for activating or subscribing to i-mode but only pay for using the service and not for accessing it. Usage of i-mode (including cost of navigation of the portal, and of all official and independent sites and e-mail) is charged with 1 eurocent/KB, while Cosmote customers only pay for the quantity of data received or sent and not for the time spent connected. The browsing of every official i-mode site consists of both free and paid content with a monthly subscription ranging from Euro0 up to Euro3.
Independent sites have no monthly subscription and charging only includes browsing based on the data sent or received.
Cosmote will be offering i-mode to all its customers completely free of charge (without monthly subscriptions to all official sites and no charge for any data sent or received) until July 15th 2004.
Cosmote begins commercial launch with over 100 official Greek and international i-mode sites. Content partners among others include CNN News, the Cartoon Network and in the near future Disney, as well as  interactive game developers (including Gameloft, Namco and I-Fone) known for games such as Pacman and Tetris.
 Apart from the official i-mode sites, Cosmote customers can access a number of independent i-mode sites.
Cosmote customers can access the i-mode sites by entering the portal through the i-menu, the main service menu, with just the touch of the yellow-coloured key on their Cosmote i-mode handset.
The handset i-menu includes 14 thematic content categories, from news, weather, sport, through to games, travel and on-line shopping.
The i-mode launch follows an earlier limited launch of 3G service.

Handset user interface design company Trigenix has signed a deal with Qualcomm to support BREW, the American chipset giant's phone platform.

Bob Last, director of sales and marketing at Trigenix told Mobile Europe that the deal would open up non-European CDMA markets to his company, as well as providing Trigenix's T4 technology with a route to future BREW-based WCDMA phones designed for Europe.
Trigenix's T4 is software that allows  handset vendors, operators and users to create themed designs for the user interface, including the push of information and messaging to the handset in a non-SMS environment.
The software is behind T-Mobile's ScreenStyle's product, and already supports Series 60 phones. Last said that the BREW agreement, and future support for JAVA, (by the end of 2004, Last said) will move the personalisation software away from the high end phones where it has previously resided, more into the mass market.
The advantage of the technology over manufacturer's own customisation options is that it is dynamic, rather than static, Last said. It also allows operators to support personalisation of all the phones in their catalogue from one platform, rather than providing individual support for every manufacturer's own software.
Last also claimed that operators have witnessed a five fold increase in mobile data usage since bringing Trigenix on board, as applications become easier for the user to handle.

Mobile music was confirmed as a core target for mobile operators with the launch of more services across Europe.
Sonera led the way with the world's first introduction of a service supported by Sony's StreamMan platform, launched in March 2004.

"We are very pleased to see Sony's StreamMan service go live for the first time in the world in Finland. This is the beginning of a pan-European rollout that will see StreamMan launched by a number of mobile operators in other European countries later this year," senior vice president Robert Ashcroft from Sony Network Services Europe, said.
Ashcroft said, "StreamMan has the potential to generate large scale growth in data applications for mobile networks, and has elicited strong interest from mobile operators around the world."
StreamMan is based on the 3GPP-standard AAC audio format and was developed by Sony Network Services with support from Alcatel subsidiary PacketVideo Network Solutions. StreamMan is designed as a mobile entertainment application that mobile phone operators can provide for their customers on GPRS or 3G/UMTS networks.
Service management company End2End is responsible for the hosting, management, and delivery of the  managed service solution, including the streaming and digital rights management platforms.
The service requires a Symbian Series 60 or UIQ handset and a GPRS or 3G subscription, dependent upon the availability of the partnering mobile operator's network.The service also works a little like Tivo television technology, in that it learns a user's individual tastes to provide a group of stations and channels for the subscriber.
StreamMan offers a wide variety of music from both large and independent labels through different channels. In addition to the usual stream of music, subscribers to the service may listen to channels playing only music of a certain theme or style --- for example a 90's hits channel. The service also allows customers to give feedback on currently playing songs by rating "like" or "dislike". StreamMan adjusts the channel accordingly. Subscribers may also save songs in personal playlists and listen only to the music of their choice. 
Department Director Olli-Pekka Takanen of TeliaSonera Finland, said, "In the future, Sonera mobile customers may listen to music transmitted by StreamMan also with their computer, if they have broadband access."
This takes the mobile service into direct competition with other online music providers, most obviously i-Tunes, recently launched in Europe.
Sonera customers need to register and download the StreamMan application from its WAP portal; > Viihde > Musiikki > StreamMan or > Ladattavat sovellukset > Viihde > StreamMan.
Initially the operator will charge no connection or monthly fees for the use of StreamMan, preferring instead to make a data transfer charge according to Sonera's valid price list will be collected. At first, the service can only be used with Nokia 6600 and Ericsson P800 and P900 phones.
l Controversial US ringtone company Xingtone has secured first round funding from Siemens' start-up incubator Siemens Mobile Acceleration.
Xingtone's application bridges personal computers and mobile phones, allowing users to exploit their MP3 and CD libraries to create custom ringtones and upload content, such as images and games, to their own wireless handsets.
The software has some record companies worried that letting users create unique cellular phone rings for free will hit ringtone revenues.
The fear is that people will make ringtones out of pirated songs, thus compounding the file-sharing problem while robbing the music industry of a new source of revenue.

Broadcom Corporation, a provider of  integrated semiconductor solutions for broadband communications, has signed an agreement to acquire Zyray Wireless, a provider of baseband co-processors addressing WCDMA  mobile devices.

Zyray's SPINNERchip co-processor enables third generation (3G) mobile communications technology to be  added to current generation phone handsets and data terminals. Broadcom's has existing EDGE/GPRS/GSM mobile products to ad to Zyray's WCDMA solution. Broadcom intends to pairing the SPINNERchip technology with its single-chip EDGE/GPRS/GSM and GPRS/GSM baseband processors, enabling two-chip WCDMA multi-mode phones in the near term and potentially future solutions with enhanced integration.
According to a recent Deutsche Bank Securities market report, the worldwide WCDMA market is expected to approach 200 million units by 2008 --- 25% of total handset sales.

We are always being told that advanced mobile communication services will be all about creating communities of interest, although there has been not much in the way of tangible action from operators.

But Telefonica Moviles Espana and Boungiorno MyAlert are teaming up to exploit a 980,000 strong community already registered at Telefonica Moviles is providing the mobile access to the Coca-Cola Community through MoviStar e-mocion, the content provider service of Telefonica MoviStar, for all users that access it through WAP navigation or i-mode technology.
Called the Coca-Cola Movement, the the community provides a forum for young people to chat, compete for prizes, listen to music and generally hang out online.
Adding mobile access to the site, via WAP or i-mode, means users can access content such as ring-tone, logos and wallpaper as well as account information. The first 10,000 people to register on the site will receive a free MoviStar TSM30 i-mode phone.
"We are helping a main consumer company to create the first mobile community. Slowly, we are helping to integrate mobile technology in everybody's daily life," Fernando Gonza¡lez-Mesones, general director of Buongiorno MyAlert Spain, said.

Another approach to tapping into communities of interest come from Bango, which is trying to take operators beyond the traditional SMS based approach to buying content.

Bango is working with the SMS industry to marry the traditional approach to selling ringtones and games with the latest "browse and buy" technology available on the mobile internet.
Bango says that repeat sales are tripled by taking users to a browse and buy internet site, in effect a content shop on the phone. Mobile content providers can add sophisticated mobile shopping services on the back of their basic SMS business, giving users the opportunity to buy further content after the initial download.
Drum and Bass Arena, the leading global Drum and Bass brand, is one of the first Bango customers to make this move.
"We found it very straightforward to integrate our content delivery platform and WAP sites with the Bango browse and buy technology," said Dell Dias, ceo of Drum and Bass Arena. 
"Bango's system makes it easy for us to encourage repeat sales from customers purchasing ringtones from our web and print channels. We have added a 'collaborative-filtering' system which will present a personalised WAP site based on the purchase history of other users."
The site can be accessed by texting "go breakbeat" to 87121.
The traditional way of buying a ringtone is to text a string of codes that takes users to a WAP page where they can download the tone --- but that is all. Adverts selling ringtones off the page stimulate people to buy specific items, but there is no incentive to spend more money.
Bango says its solution supports an existing SMS access and download channel, but also encourages users to continue to browse and buy further content from this initial point of entry.  Billing is integrated into the shop, as is customer profiling, security and operator content controls where needed.
"Our partners in the mobile content industry have established, successful businesses but they are always looking at ways to improve returns on their marketing investments," commented Anil Malhotra, vp of marketing at Bango. "Our data clearly shows that customers who can browse and buy spend much, much more."

Drum and Bass Arena can be found at

iPass has demonstrated 802.1x technology coexisting with its Generic Interface Specification (GIS) and browser based authentication. 

iPass, which offers connectivity services for mobile workers, provided the 802.1x technical integration for the demonstration. 802.1x and GIS work together to secure Wi-Fi network access. Prior to the advent of 802.1x, iPass secured hotspots on its network through the the i-Pass created GIS. GIS  been adopted by numerous access point hardware manufacturers and network operators, making coexistence between GIS and 802.1x important as the Wi-Fi industry migrates to next-generation security.
"Layering 802.1x on top of roaming by iPass at public hotspots is a great demonstration of how to increase security and easier access to Wi-Fi hotspots," said Dan Dahle,  from Intel's Communications Technology Lab.

Mobile data will generate all mobile revenue growth in Western Europe until 2008, according to the Yankee Group's new EMEA Wireless/Mobile Data Forecast. Released today at the Yankee Group's Wireless Leadership Forum in London, the forecast projects mobile voice revenues stagnating at around $124 billion, while data revenues will more than double over five years to approximately $50 billion. Fuelling this data market growth will be quadruple revenue growth in wireless entertainment revenues as well as a doubling of enterprise data users.

"Data is what it's all about for Western European wireless carriers," said Declan Lonergan, director, Wireless/Mobile Europe.
"Voice markets are saturated and voice ARPU is declining. Data ARPU, however, will more than double over 5 years, representing 29% of total ARPU. This is significant both in terms of absolute numbers, and the applications behind the numbers as well. Entertainment revenue will be key to long-term growth and video, music and games will be growing at an impressive rate compared with more nascent data applications such as messaging, which will have begun to stagnate by 2008."
The Yankee Group EMEA Wireless/Mobile Data Forecast, a 5-year prospective view of key indicators for the EMEA wireless data application markets, including total market, messaging, entertainment, information, M-commerce, enterprise and value-added voice segments. The forecast includes metrics for the total region plus regional European segments, as well as country specific metrics for 16 major national markets.

Axalto has launched a SIM-based instant messaging application for mobile users. Axalto hopes SIMapse will help mobile operators builds on the growing popularity of Instant Messaging (IM) among Internet users in order to open up a new SMS (short message service) revenue stream for mobile operators.

The SIMapse application combines the SMS channel with a Java SIM-based solution, meaning mobile users can develop contact lists and receive online alerts about their contacts. Presence notification means users know whether their contacts are online or not and can  reply instantly to messages they receive. The mobile industry is hoping that online status and presence alerts will encourage users to communicate, generating more SMS traffic.
SIMapse brings to mobile instant messaging features such as one touch log-in and log-out, contact lists with corresponding details, message history, and one-touch messaging to multiple users.
Users can also change handsets while retaining their preferred service as the solution is SIM-based. Axalto says that applet communication protocols allow for interoperability and compatibility across instant messaging service providers, extending the advantages of SIMapse to a wider range of subscribers.
Axalto's solution uses Java SIM cards and SIM Toolkit technology, providing operators with a familiar means to extend IM services to all their subscribers.  
"SIMapse is an ideal way for operators to replicate the success of instant messaging in the wireless world," commented Philippe Vrignaud, director mobile communications at Axalto. "The business case is very straightforward for our mobile telecommunication operator clients, and, based on the strong appetite and familiarity young users currently demonstrate for this interactive approach, we anticipate rapid adoption of this technology."
Although there have been concerns about mobile instant messaging perhaps cannibalising SMS revenues in the mobile IP world, this approach maintains the use of the SMS channel.
Despite the fears about IM, the industry has recognised the potential as well. Recently, Microsoft signed an agreement with Openwave to integrate its instant messaging client into Openwave's latest version of its mobile browser technology.

Flarion Technologies, the architect of the FLASH-OFDM wireless broadband system, has expanded its Alliance programme to 24 members.

First launched in 2002 the Flarion Alliance programme brings together  enterprise, computing and solutions companies in support of IP-friendly mobile broadband. As part of the expansion, Flarion is welcoming three new members --- Amdocs, Fujitsu, and Sun Microsystems into the Flarion Alliance Program.
"With Flarion's network technology, productivity devices are no longer tied to the LAN," said Richard McCormack, vice president of product and solutions marketing, Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation. "Soon, devices will incorporate not only WiFi, but also Wireless Wide Area Network connectivity as well - opening the door for ubiquitous coverage and increased productivity."
"Capitalising on Flarion's FLASH-OFDM broadband wireless technology, our solution will enable service providers to quickly launch next-generation services over the most advanced networks and drive revenue," said Michael Matthews, chief marketing officer at Amdocs."
Flarion Alliance Program members cooperate to accomplish the following objectives: Enable a true end-to-end, IP-based wireless network solution based on FLASH-OFDM technology
l Interoperability testing and/or technological integration with the FLASH-OFDM technology platform
l Generate industry support and adoption among IP and wireless solution providers
l Drive the convergence of the wireless industry and the Internet to create a mass market for mobile broadband services
Flarion is currently in technology or market trials with Nextel Communications, SK Telecom and Vodafone amongst other operators.
Alliance members include: Amdocs, Analog Devices, Inc., Andrew Corporation, Birdstep Technology, Black & Veatch, Cisco Systems, Dynamicsoft, Flextronics, Fujitsu, Funk Software, Hellosoft, HP, K&L Microwave, Kirusa, LCC International, Mitec Telecom, Powerwave Technologies, Ricoh, SBS Technologies, Inc, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments and WFI. An overview of the Alliance can be found at
Its FLASH-OFDM technology operates in frequencies between 400Mhz to 3.5Ghz. On the network side, the RadioRouter base station interfaces to an edge router and transparently supports all existing IP standards in the core network.