Four years ago Systems/Link Corp. introduced RoamEx, which “allowed carriers with fraud problems in big cities access to what was going on,” said Diane Sammer, president of Systems/Link.

Today RoamEx is rapidly becoming the ticket to global roaming.

RoamEx exchanges caller data between different wireless carriers’ networks in near real-time, which helps carriers reduce cloning fraud outside their home markets. Most U.S. wireless carriers, all Mexican carriers and several in Canada have adopted the software-based data exchange system, said Sammer.

Most recently, the Hightstown, N.J.-based company delivered RoamEx to Hutchison Telecom of Hong Kong, marking its first step into the Asia/Pacific region. The company is receiving interest from South American carriers as well, said Sammer.

“You would think carriers would just set up roaming agreements if their systems are up,” said Sammer. “But the concerns about fraud have put the brakes on that.”

Cloning fraud does the most damage in a roaming scenario because a traveler’s home carrier is liable for all illegitimate calling activity. Not only do home carriers miss potential revenue, but they must reimburse the other carrier for the full cost of airtime on their customer’s cloned account.

Without RoamEx, a U.S. subscriber could be cloned in Mexico City, but the home carrier could not readily determine where the cloning happened if that customer also had calling activity in the United States around the same time.

RoamEx distributes caller activity data and billing detail records in as quickly as a few minutes and no longer than an hour, said Gary Drouillard, general manager of roaming and fraud control for British Columbia, Canada-based BC Tel Mobility.

When RoamEx is used in conjunction with a fraud profiler, such as Systems/Link’s FraudTec and other products, carriers can detect patterns of use that signal potential fraud, even when customers are halfway across the world.

Hutchison was “highly motivated to provide access to their customers in North America,” explained Drouillard. “It became clear that other carriers weren’t really prepared to do business with them unless they had the real-time visibility we’re used to in North America.”

The Hong Kong carrier approached BC Tel to establish its beachhead for roaming in North America, said Drouillard. The relationship is important to BC Tel, as Vancouver does a high level of trans-Pacific commerce.

Prior to RoamEx, BC Tel and other carriers relied on clearinghouses to provide calling data, which was delivered seven to 10 days following calling activity. Carriers have had a dilemma. By offering roaming, they were at risk for severe loss from cloning. If they did not offer roaming capability, they could lose customers.

In the past, Mexican cellular carriers had “service blacked out in Houston, Dallas and other close border cities because there wasn’t a way to track call activity,” explained Sammer.

Some carriers have placed the burden of risk on customers by requiring they guarantee their accounts with a credit card. This is a hassle for everyone, said Drouillard.

Mobility Canada affiliates Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility also have adopted RoamEx. Rogers Cantel Inc. recently agreed to implement RoamEx on most of its networks across Canada, said Sammer.

“The RoamEx story really was facilitated by early commitment in big markets,” said Sammer. The product was introduced late in 1993 and started generating revenue in the first quarter of 1994. Systems/Link first signed the New York Cellular One properties, which were Bell Atlantic Corp.’s A-side networks, then Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc. and Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems followed in Boston, Washington and Chicago. The launch in Chicago grabbed the attention of Los Angeles Cellular and Bay Area Cellular, which then put RoamEx on their networks.

Sammer said Bell Atlantic’s B-side networks and Nynex Corp. adopted RoamEx, which peaked interest at BellSouth Corp.

International wireless traffic is sent across Signaling System 7 Interim Standard-41 networks. Illuminet’s SS7 network carries Hutchison’s, BC Tel’s and many other B-side carriers’ cellular traffic. The North American Cellular Network, owned and operated by AT&T Wireless Services Inc., is used by 85 carriers worldwide.

Drouillard said the carriers using RoamEx share with each other numbers known to be suspicious. A leader of the CDMA Development Group’s steering committee, Drouillard is trying to drive the adoption of RoamEx among Code Division Multiple Access technology carriers.

RoamEx is the foundation for Systems/Link’s Home and Roam prepaid cellular service, as well. Many current prepaid services are limited to calling in the home market if carriers cannot track calling activity, and obviously, do not have the customer’s credit as a backup.


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