A method and apparatus for authenticating a roaming subscriber. In a preferred embodiment, a subscriber receives a challenge that is in a format of a local authentication protocol, and determines whether the local authentication protocol is the subscriber's home system authentication protocol. If it is not, the subscriber converts the challenge into a format (e.g., bit length) compatible with its home system authentication protocol, and processes the converted challenge with the subscriber's secret key and authentication algorithm into an authentication response. The authentication response is converted to be compatible with the local authentication protocol, and transmitted to a local system communication unit. The challenge and response is then forwarded to the subscriber's home system for similar conversion and processing, and subscriber's response is compared against a home system generated response.