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BICS provides 5G standalone roaming connection of AIS to stc Kuwait

Belgian-based connectivity enabler partners with Kuwaiti and Thai operators to deliver MENA country’s first ever 5G standalone roaming connection, promising customers scalability for roaming agreements and opportunities to innovate

Almost a year after setting up the first-ever intercontinental 5G standalone (SA) roaming connection between two live networks in Europe and the Middle East, international connectivity and 5G enabler BICS has now enabled the first-ever 5G SA roaming connection between Kuwait Telecommunications Company (stc) and Thailand’s biggest mobile operator, AIS.

Stc is endeavouring to provide innovative services and platforms to customers, enabling digital transformation in the Middle East. The partnership with BICS will see a direct connection with AIS SEPP (Security Edge Protection Proxy) and a full-service 5G SA Service Hub to the Kuwait operator.

The successful connection enabled AIS and stc Kuwait to deliver an international 5G standalone roaming connection carrying data, texts and calls using a 5G mobile core network. Until now, 5G connections in the region used non-standalone (NSA) 5G technology and were routed as 4G/LTE traffic in core networks. This meant previous connections did not offer network slicing and real-time-critical communication, or scalability, and therefore didn’t support 5G innovation use cases.

The roaming connection also sees BICS offer more than the standard requirements, with an additional security layer on top of the SEPP protection established by operators. All traffic is sent from the operators’ SEPPs through BICS’s 5G SA Service Hub. While the operators already had the security protection of the SEPP firewall, BICS added data analytics, business intelligence, quality monitoring, and a powerful layer of fraud protection for the 5G roaming traffic exchanged between operators around the world so they can scale.

BICS claims a number of 5G standalone firsts, including the first-ever connection of its kind in a lab environment in 2021 and the first-ever global 5G SA roaming connection between the Middle East and Europe in 2022. This new first has allowed BICS to push 5G SA boundaries further, testing its new 5G SA Service Hub model and opening the doors for operators to innovate and scale their roaming agreements.

“5G is the biggest overhaul of mobile technology in generations, offering a range of benefits to users and enterprises. But the real potential of 5G will only be realised through the global adoption of 5G standalone,” said Mikaël Schachne, vice-president of telco at BICS.

“At BICS, we believe in the power of communications, which is why we are committed to building the foundations that will accelerate the roll-out of 5G SA roaming around the world. The more we work together to cement these foundations and make 5G SA roaming a reality, the quicker operators like AIS and stc Kuwait, and enterprises and end users alike, can unlock its potential.”

Saran Phaloprakarn, head of mobile and consumer products department at AIS, added: “For 5G to work for businesses and consumers, it needs to be scalable, and it needs to be secure. This successful roaming connection takes a huge step forward in both regards, and ushers in the next generation of 5G for our customers and the wider industry.”

Mohammed N. Al-Nusif, chief executive officer of solutions at stc, remarked: “This latest achievement brings global 5G SA even closer to reality, arming operators not only with the technical readiness, but an array of secure, quality assurance services to protect consumers and operators’ future revenues in the 5G era.”

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