Syniverse hopes to leverage carrier relationships amid expected LTE roaming boom

Syniverse has been providing hundreds of carriers with roaming and other interconnection services, and it is now looking to take advantage of those relationships as operators enable international LTE roaming and Voice over LTE roaming between countries.

Syniverse is a firm believer in IP Exchange (IPX), the GSMA-backed model for the interoperability of IP traffic between different mobile operators and ISPs. IPX is seen by some operators as a key element to delivering interoperability for VoLTE and other LTE-related services.

In a recent interview with FierceWirelessTech, Syniverse CEO Steve Gray noted that 318 carriers worldwide have announced LTE networks, referencing a figure from a July report from the Global mobile Suppliers Association. Gray said Syniverse has relationships with 159 of those 318 carriers and added that the company now has 400 roaming routes on its global network, with 600 more in testing or trials.

Gray became CEO in late August, a few weeks after Syniverse completed its $292 million acquisition of Aicent, which bolstered Syniverse's position in the IPX and LTE roaming markets. Syniverse is also banking on continued growth as a result of its deal to acquire Mach, which closed in July 2013 and gave the company a larger footprint in roaming and messaging services. Gray said that, after the two deals, Syniverse now has 100 physical facilities throughout the world where carriers, ISPs and enterprises can connect with the company's network, as well as many more virtual connection points.

Gray said the company now controls 90 percent of the major international IP-traffic highways, especially for LTE data. "We think we have an unrivaled footprint in terms of being able to capitalize on it," he said.

In the U.S., AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) has been one of the leading proponents of international LTE roaming, having signed deals with carriers in at least 15 countries. Syniverse is working with AT&T on LTE roaming, Gray confirmed, and was also behind an LTE roaming deal between T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and the Alaska Wireless Network, a partnership between GCI and Alaska Communications.

Gray said that two-thirds of Syniverse's revenue comes from domestic deals and one-third is international. Over the next five years he expects there to be a "substantive" shift in that mix. He said that a 50-50 split might be "a little aggressive" but that there is more opportunity internationally than in the U.S.    

John Wick, Syniverse's senior vice president and general manager for mobile transaction services, said the company has been building toward the shift to LTE and VoLTE since 2009, though the firm is not yet seeing much business as a result of VoLTE roaming (Syniverse is working on VoLTE trials with 13 carriers in four countries).

"The same carriers we are having conversations with about getting the LTE roaming environment up and running and healthy are the same ones we are talking to about VoLTE," he said, noting that VoLTE roaming and interoperability between markets like the U.S. and China will be a huge opportunity. He said the global voice network is moving to IPX, enabling carriers to ensure quality of service for VoLTE at an individual subscriber level.

"We're connected to all of the players," Wick said, adding that an interesting dynamic at play in terms of roaming behavior will be based on how much carriers want to focus on LTE roaming between carriers in their own countries and how much they want to focus internationally.

Gray noted that of 318 LTE carriers he referenced, anywhere from a third to 40 percent are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, 25 percent are in Asia-Pacific, 10 percent are in Central and Latin America and less than 10 percent are in North America.

The rest of the world has caught up to North America in terms of LTE deployments, he said. "As far as intercarrier LTE roaming and IPX networking opportunities, the bigger challenge is going to be in the rest of the world," as opposed to North America, he said.

Not everything has been going swimmingly at Syniverse. Gray, who had been a Syniverse board member since January 2011, acknowledged that one of his first priorities upon taking over for Jeffrey Gordon was to assess the company's work force and management team.

Gray said the company has cut 6 to 7 percent of its workforce of roughly 2,600 to 2,700 employees, or around 156 to 190 jobs. He said he would not characterize the cuts as significant and said he expected that by this time in 2015 the company will have about as many employees as it has now, or maybe a little more.

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