COPS To Enable Global Roaming Across Cellular And WLANs

Bell Labs, the R&D arm of Lucent Technologies and long-time innovator in the telecommunications space, has announced a software breakthrough that will enable global wireless roaming across all wireless networks – – including wireless LANs using 802.11 technologies, CDMA2000, Universal Mobile Telecommunications Services (UMTS), and other high-speed data networks.

Bell Labs calls the software architecture COPS, which stands for Common Operations. COPS is designed to facilitate access to voice/data services when subscribers are outside of their home networks, even in different types of networks from their own. This means that a person using a phone operating on a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network will be able to roam on a mobile network operating on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Cellular users will even be able to roam on to a WLAN supporting 802.11 standards.

The COPS architecture creates a so-called ‘protocol gateway’ which effectively translates data from networks employing disparate protocols into a single, common language. The result is that the various networks can maintain and use a single subscriber profile – including authentication, authorization, and location data.

At the heart of these essential verification functions is what are called “home location registers” or HLRs. HLRs are databases of subscriber information, which currently perform these functions only when the subscriber travels in his/her home network or in limited similar networks.

Thus far, these HLRs have not been accessible or interoperable, but the COPS architecture creates a generic interface to the primary HLR functions. COPS translates user data and signaling technologies from cellular to Internet protocols (IP) and vice versa, automatically. This allows several protocol-specific gateways to be built, each one allowing data stored on the HLR to be accessed by a different type of network.

Bell Labs said that building an HLR with COPS will enable automatic updates of customer databases, access by multiple network types, and support for voice/data high-speed services.

Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of

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