SS7 and Next-Generation Networks

The SS7 network acts as the backbone for the PSTN and INs; it provides access to the IN features, allows for efficient call setup and teardown, and interconnects thousands of service providers under one common signaling network. The capability to communicate with SS7 networks is essential for all service providers because SS7 networks give next-generation local exchange carriers access to an existing base of service features. Operators and service providers have begun the migration to IP-based network architecture (see Chapter 8, "The Internet and IP Infrastructures"). However, no one expects an overnight transition; instead, we need to find a way to support both traditional circuit-switched and contemporary IP-based services on a single network infrastructure. There is little doubt that circuit-switched services will continue to have a fruitful life for some years to come, but they will have to increasingly live with IP services, so the obvious solution is a hybrid architecture that enables a low-risk evolution while allowing for new service offerings.

There are now new genres of equipment and protocols to ensure that packet-based telephony switching gateways can in fact support key legacy services and signaling features. For example, a next-generation gateway switch supports the traditional Class 4, or toll switch, services and the Class 5, or local exchange switch, services. It is designed to support a wide variety of trafficdata, voice, fax, multimedia, and other emerging media typesover a data backbone. The next-generation gateway switch provides seamless interoperability between the circuits that network the PSTN and packet-switching networks, such as IP backbones, ATM networks, Frame Relay networks, and emerging MPLS networks. We can use these gateway switches to connect with the SS7 network and to handle the IP services that are so popular today. These gateway switches can support a variety of telephony signaling protocols (e.g., H.323, Session Initiation Protocol [SIP], and Media Gateway Control Protocol [MGCP]) for communicating with the underlying SS7 architecture. (Chapter 9, "IP Services," discusses all the call control signaling standards.)

As shown in Figure 4.16, there are different forms of these next-generation gateway switches for different purposes. In the bottom right of Figure 4.16 is an ILEC and its resident circuit-switched network, which is a series of Class 5 offices at the perimeter. These Class 5 offices are connected to the SS7 network or the STPs via A links. These Class 5 offices then connect into a CLEC's packet-switched network, and their first point of interface is a gateway switch. Among other things, this gateway switch is responsible for digitizing and packetizing the voice to prepare it for transport over the packet-switched network. The CLEC's packet-switched network also has an SS7 gateway, which is capable of communicating with the underlying ILEC's SS7 network so that it can map the appropriate IP addresses associated with the destination telephone number, which is served by a given destination media gateway. The next-generation gateway switch, therefore, provides a means to seamlessly interoperate between two very important and existing infrastructures. Signaling gateways allow both legacy and new equipment to seamlessly operate over high-bandwidth, scalable, and available IP-based core networks instead of taxing the TDM-based legacy SS7 network.

Figure 4.16. Next-generation gateway switches

Figure 4.17 is an end-to-end view of a next-generation network. It shows an interconnected environment between the legacy circuit-switched network and the emerging packet-based networks. A subscriber at the customer premises (e.g., a residence, a business site) is connected to the local exchange, known as the end office, by access lines. From there, trunks link to a media gateway switch, which, through SS7 interfaces, can reach into the underlying intelligence within the SS7 network and further add the necessary information to process the call as requested. The call then goes out on a packet basis throughout a series of switches or routers (depending on what the provider is using as the backbone) and reaches a destination media gateway switch that unpackages the voice, undigitizes it, and delivers it to the destination phone.

Figure 4.17. An end-to-end next-generation network

 

Next-Generation Networks and the PSTN

Although tremendous amounts of time and money have been spent in developing the intelligence that provides the PSTN telephony features we know today, operators are seeking ways to consolidate voice and data traffic, platforms, and services in order to reduce the operational, maintenance, and initial costs of the network. IP-based networks are now considered the best path to building converged networks from which integrated services can be offered. There are many benefits associated with an IP network, including less expensive equipment, easier deployment, higher bandwidth, and the opportunity for many enhanced services. These new IP-based services include unified messaging, IP telephony, IP-based virtual private networks (IP VPNs), IPTV, and mobile IP, among many others. Both fixed and mobile operators are choosing to deploy such all-IP infrastructures, which include support for SS7 signaling protocols.

Given the substantial presence of circuit-switched networks that continue to deliver high-quality voice and data connections and still have plenty of useful life, it is clear that an integration solution is required to interconnect the PSTN and the growing number of IP networks. The charter of the IETF Signaling Transport (SIGTRAN) Working Group, established in 1999, is to develop and standardize the messages and protocols necessary to carry mobile and PSTN signaling over IP networks (i.e., SS7 over IP). The SIGTRAN Working Group has defined a new architectural model that enables the evolution to an all-IP network. This new model defines the appropriate protocols required for converging the PSTN and IP networks. The SIGTRAN protocols provide all the functionality needed to support SS7 signaling over IP networks, including flow control; in-sequence delivery of signaling messages within a single control stream; identification of the originating and terminating signaling points; identification of voice circuits; error detection, retransmission, and other error-correcting procedures; recovery from outages of components in the transit path; control to avoid congestion on the Internet; detection of the status of peer entities (i.e., in service, out of service); support for security mechanisms to protect the integrity of the signaling information; and extensions to support security and future requirements.

The characteristics of next-generation networks are very different from what the traditional PSTN was aiming at. Next-generation networks are not designed for just voice, data, or video. They are designed for multimedia and streaming media, and this requires capacities that are broadband in nature, networks that are engineered for extremely low and controllable latencies, and infrastructures that provide the ability to administer quality of service on a very granular level.

This book has talked about the explosion of bandwidth that's occurring because of developments in optics. As the availability of bandwidth increases, bandwidth becomes cheaper and cheaper. When bandwidth becomes very inexpensive or almost free, a carrier needs to find other ways to generate revenue, such as by offering a large variety of value-added services (e.g., reliability, priority, customer service, and encryption or security). But to administer all these services and to provide differentiated pricing, which can result in handsome revenue streams, there must be mechanisms for controlling, monitoring, and billing.

The next-generation network infrastructure has a number of important features that are covered in detail in later chapters:

  • It has very fast packet switching, with capacities that we're beginning to need to measure in terabits per second (Tbps) and soon in petabits per second (1Pbps = 1,000Tbps), and on its heels, in exabits per second (1Ebps = 1 billion Gbps). (See Chapter 10.)
  • It places great emphasis on optical networking elements to take advantage of the abundant bandwidth inherent in the visible light spectrum. (See Chapter 11, "Optical Networking.")
  • Multiservice agnostic platforms have been created, so we will not have separate devices for voice and data as we do today, but we'll have nodes that can accommodate any traffic type and protocol. We're also introducing intelligent edgeswhere the smarts for processing service requests, delivering features, and accommodating advanced applications are deployed at the edge rather than in the core network. This allows for more rapid introduction, as well as more customization of the feature sets. The core also has to be multiservice because it needs to differentiate between the requirements of the different traffic streams, but more importantly, the next-generation core must be ultrafast and ultrareliable. (See Chapter 10.)
  • Next-generation telephony is very important for new entrants, particularly because of the costs of deploying normal local exchanges. A regular local exchange costs in the neighborhood of US$3 million to US$5 million, whereas a media gateway will be on the order of US$100,000. For those seeking to become competitors in the local loop environment, next-generation telephony offers a very cost-effective means of gaining entry. (See Chapter 9.)
  • Intelligent networking is being applied to the public data infrastructure as well as the Internet. From an architectural standpoint, the ITU's next-generation network relies heavily on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) framework (see Chapter 10). IMS creates a telephony-oriented signaling network that overlays an underlying IP network, replacing traditional telco SS7 signaling and acting as a control plane for both wireless and wireline networks.
  • Network operators are introducing video and multimedia elements, video servers, media farms, video compression, and decompression devices, all of which become part of what constitutes the entire communications network. (See Chapter 10.)
  • Access is moving toward the broadband realm on both a wired basis and a wireless basis. (See Chapter 12.)


Part I: Communications Fundamentals

Telecommunications Technology Fundamentals

Traditional Transmission Media

Establishing Communications Channels

The PSTN

Part II: Data Networking and the Internet

Data Communications Basics

Local Area Networking

Wide Area Networking

The Internet and IP Infrastructures

Part III: The New Generation of Networks

IP Services

Next-Generation Networks

Optical Networking

Broadband Access Alternatives

Part IV: Wireless Communications

Wireless Communications Basics

Wireless WANs

WMANs, WLANs, and WPANs

Emerging Wireless Applications

Glossary



Telecommunications Essentials(c) The Complete Global Source
Telecommunications Essentials, Second Edition: The Complete Global Source (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0321427610
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 160

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