What Is Seamless Roaming?

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Phone coverage can be a regular problem for people constantly on the move. This is especially true for traveling business people who take frequent flights or drives across states or even internationally. The wide variety of different data networks can make using mobile applications on phones or PDAs difficult or impossible. Seamless roaming is a term used to describe technology that helps solve this problem.

Data Networks

  • There are a large number of data networks used across the world just for cell phones and their included capabilities, such as web browsing. In the United States alone there are 3G networks, Wi-Fi networks, and Wi-Max networks. Each one of these networks uses a different protocol and is designed for a specific system. Internationally, GPRS, CDMA, GSM, and UMTS standards are also available, some affecting the way a phone itself operates.

Problem

  • The wide variety of networks available do not work together. This is why the majority of users choose only one available option and stay with it. If they move outside of the coverage area, they lose their connection and must re-establish it. For business users, this can waste precious time, and moving while using mobile applications often becomes completely impractical.

Seamless Definition

  • Seamless roaming was developed as a solution service for travelers who regularly cross the boundaries between different types of mobile connections. While it costs much more than regular service, it also solves many communication problems that can result from moving. The "seamless" part of the service refers to the goal of creating transitions between different connections that are so smooth there is no disturbance in the applications that the user is running.

Process

  • Most seamless coverage services work by using the Mobile IP protocol designed to provide mobility at the network level of the connection. In other words, the network itself keeps a hold of the user's IP address, and passes it from connection to connection type, swapping so smoothly that there is no noticeable effect on the user side, where the application is actually in use.

Operation

  • Typically, both a home agent and a foreign agent are used in the creation of seamless roaming networks. Together they create a "mobile node" or a special location for the traveling phone while it is connected. The home agent works to create a tunnel through the online connection to reach the phone, and the foreign agent works to make room for the node on its own network.

References

  • Photo Credit cell phone image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com
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