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SS7 over IP
Standalone Signalling Gateways Versus
Integrated and Distributed Signalling Functions.

An exploration of tomorrow’s IP signalling networks and architectures.

Network operators can select the best and most suitable architecture

for their signalling IP network by analysing the different options which

are available to them in an IP world and comparing those options to

what is currently done in a traditional TDM environment.

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SS7 over IP

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888.628.5527
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Tekelec has more than 20 office worldwide serving customers in


more than 100 countries. Addresses, phone and fax numbers are
listed on the Tekelec website at www.tekelec.com/offices.

This document is for informational purposes only, and Tekelec reserves the right to change any
aspect of the products, features or functionality described in this document without notice. Please
contact Tekelec for additional information and updates. Solutions and examples are provided for
illustration only. Actual implementation of these solutions may vary based on individual needs and
circumstances.

© 2010 Tekelec. All rights reserved. The EAGLE and Tekelec logos are registered trademarks of
Tekelec. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
TKLC-WP-001-EMEA-01-2010
SS7 over IP

Table of Contents
Executive Summary �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������4

Introduction ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������4

From Meshed Network Architecture to Star-Shaped Network


Architecture in a Traditional TDM Environment.............................................5

Possible SS7 over IP Network Architectures: Defining What’s


Under the Cloud...........................................................................................7

EAGLE 5: Server to Structure IP Networks ����������������������������������������������������12

Conclusion ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������15

About Tekelec ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������16

Appendix: Acronyms Used in This Document ����������������������������������������������17


SS7 over IP

Executive Summary
Mobile operators worldwide are migrating to 3G technology to enhance their service
offerings with messaging applications like SMS, televoting, Personalised Ring Back Tone
(PRBT), and prepaid voice and data services; all proven to have high subscriber take-
rates and resulting in additional carrier revenue opportunities. However, many mobile
operators face significant challenges deploying these services.

Among the challenges are the high cost of capital equipment and the requirement to
provision for large spikes of mobile activity that can occur around the holidays, events
and unfortunate disasters. As a result, network operators are facing a new dimension
in the evolution of signalling networks. The introduction of 3G technology into many
networks has resulted in a significant increase to signalling traffic. A 3G subscriber
generates six times the number of signalling messages than does a 2G subscriber. The
impact of simple text messaging, which will continue to grow, also increases bandwidth
requirements at the signalling layer.

As a first step to address these issues, many operators are already migrating to
SIGTRAN to increase flexibility and reduce the cost of their signaling networks. The
next question becomes an issue of network design. The framework that the carrier
chooses to implement the control layer can have a dramatic impact on the cost and
performance of the communication network. In addition, operators must always keep in
mind the migratory issues of their networks to ensure that they are deploying network
enhancements with a view of the longer term in mind.

The Tekelec EAGLE® 5 platform provides Tier 1 network service providers with the
opportunity to effectively and efficiently address these challenges. The Tekelec
architecture also provides the groundwork for a controlled transition towards SIP
based architectures.

Tekelec has a track record of innovation and success in control layer technology. Tekelec
deployed the world’s first SS7/IP network for a major European-based wireless operator
in 1999. A number of key advantages for network operators provided by a Signalling
layer will be highlighted. These advantages are demonstrated across Tekelec’s global
customer base.

Introduction
Operators are currently developing their IP transport networks to support the
introduction of 3G and IMS data services. Network consolidation should help to reduce
cost and simplify network architecture through a shared IP infrastructure for signalling,
operations and maintenance and transport.

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SS7 over IP

Deploying SIGTRAN (SS7 over IP) results in increased signalling capacity, reduced link
quantity requirements, more efficient bandwidth utilisation, enhanced services and
reduced transport cost.

Therefore, SS7 over IP appears as the next step of evolution for signalling networks. The
question then becomes: How should an IP signalling network be structured?

The focus of this paper is to explore the different SS7 over IP network architecture
concepts and to define the optimal architecture for IP signalling networks, in view of
what is currently implemented in traditional TDM environments.

From Meshed Network Architecture to


Star-Shaped Network Architecture in a Traditional
TDM Environment
Meshed signalling networks demonstrated severe performance and operational
limitations in the past, therefore the star-shaped (centralized) signalling network
architecture was implemented over the past 15 years in the traditional
TDM environment.

Interconnection & Roaming

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat. Value Added


GW GW GW GW Services

HLR SCP

HLR SCP

HLR
SMSC

HLR

Subscriber VMS
Databases
TSC TSC TSC TSC

SSP SSP SSP MSC MSC MSC

Switching

Figure 1. Meshed Network Architecture in a Traditional


TDM Environment

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SS7 over IP

In a meshed signalling network, signalling control functions are distributed across all
signalling end points, thus requiring routing databases to be replicated in all signalling
end points. Therefore, network maintenance becomes increasingly complex and difficult
as the network grows. All elements have to be reconfigured each time new elements are
added. In case of failure, the behaviour of such networks is hard to predict.

With a mated pair based and star-shaped network architecture, the signalling control
functions, the MTP and SCCP routing DB, and further functions (such as GW/MAP
screening, MNP, G-Flex …) are centralised in redundant signalling nodes (STP pairs),
located in the core of the network which guarantee highest availability.

Star-shaped signalling networks provide many advantages over distributed architectures,


such as being highly scalable – allowing operators to evolve and grow their networks in a
flexible and timely manner, thus reducing maintenance costs. Troubleshooting is easier as
there are fewer network elements involved.

Integrated functions (e.g. number portability) guarantee low latency and high availability.
More functions can be added easily with no downturn time. Application queries are
made within the same node saving bandwidth and time.

In conclusion, a centralised implementation makes it possible to save on operational


costs and build predictable and more stable signalling network architecture.

Interconnection & Roaming

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat. Value Added


GW GW GW GW Services

HSS GW/MAP Screening SCP


Roaming Applications

HSS V-Flex
SCP
MNP SMSR
G-Flex SMSF
EIR IDP-
HSS Relay
SMSC

HSS
GTT/SCCP Features
MTP Features
Subscriber VMS
Databases
TSC TSC TSC TSC

SSP SSP SSP MSC MSC MSC

Switching

Figure 2. Star-Shaped Network Architecture in a Traditional


TDM Environment

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SS7 over IP

Some operators have recently replaced their legacy STPs with next-gen STPs. For those
operators, STPs represent a future-proof investment as they are essential to permit an
easy network migration towards future technology.

During the last decade, the star network with standalone STPs has proven to be the
best option for signalling networks in a TDM environment. A standalone STP does not
represent a transport node for SS7 messages, but a centralized SS7 routing database.
Therefore it is a control system and not a transport system.

Since IP introduces a new transport layer and not a new control layer, it still makes
good sense to implement a centralized database for the routing of SS7/SIGTRAN
messages. This means that the same rules for clean and future proof network structures
still apply in an IP/SIGTRAN environment. The same good reasons for having a centralized
GTT database to support network wide SCCP routing also apply to having a
centralized database for M3UA Routing Keys in order to realize a powerful M3UA
SIGTRAN network.

The following sections of the document take a look at the different types of architectures
that operators may choose to build their IP signalling network and answer the following
question: does implementing SIGTRAN change the logical structure of the network?

Possible SS7 over IP Network Architectures:


Defining What’s Under the Cloud
Flat IP Network:
A flat IP network raises the question of the type of interfaces required. M3UA, M2PA,
SUA, legacy (LSL, ATM-HSL, SE-HSL,) and also SIP may all be required. A heterogeneous
network also requires multi-stack elements and a distributed architecture, which means
distributed routing tables (i.e. signalling gateway functions are distributed across and
integrated in all signalling nodes).

Such a network is extremely difficult to plan, to manage and to grow. Therefore, it


becomes vital for operators to structure their IP signalling networks in a manner that
better affords scaling with requirements that are less restrictive. Several options are
available for that purpose.

Structured IP Signalling Network:


Structured by Using a Softswitch with Integrated SGW Function

This network architecture could be appealing if the softswitch supports all the requested
signalling interfaces and applications in addition to its standard legacy voice and VoIP
features, The softswitch must provide high switching and signalling capacity and

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SS7 over IP

carrier-grade availability. Also, the signalling and switching should not compete for
resources. Such a softswitch is currently impossible to find in the market.

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

HSS AS

HSS AS

HSS
SMS, IM & MM

HSS
VMS
MGC MGC

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 3. Using a Softswitch to Structure an IP Signalling Network

Switches have a limited size and jeopardize the flexibility of routing and number
portability databases. Their processing capacity is not big enough to handle signalling
applications and Global Title Translations (GTT) for millions of single numbers.

Switching and signalling may compete for resources, and consequently reduce both
switch and signalling performances. An overload on one side may have an impact on the
other side.

Softswitch roadmaps are mainly driven by switching features, which have longer
planning cycles. As a matter of fact, softswitches have limited SS7 specific feature sets
(e.g. MAP screening, SLS Enhancements, DPC, MPC). They also may lack support for all
relevant signalling interfaces such as SIGTRAN, M3UA SGW, SUA SGW, M2PA, ATM HSL,
SE-HSL.

In conclusion, a softswitch can do most everything, but since it lacks specialisation,


it cannot be the best of breed in switching as well as in signalling at the same time.
This type of architecture may be working for small operators with a single-vendor type

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SS7 over IP

of environment, but definitely won’t meet the scalability, performance and reliability
requirements for larger operator networks.

Structured by Using an IP Router with Integrated Signalling Gateway

Another option for structuring the IP signalling network consists of using an IP router
with an integrated signalling gateway.

In this environment, the core network is heterogeneous leading to uncertainties


regarding which protocols are used between routers. In addition, this type of architecture
requires distributed Global Title Translations databases with different configuration sets,
thus multiplying possible sources for errors. But questions are raised when implementing
applications and monitoring.

Applications databases may be implemented in two ways:

The first one consists of distributing the databases to all routers, causing issues in
terms of

• Scalability Due to the Database Size and the Update Rate of these Databases

• Provisioning

• Database Synchronisation and Audit

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

HSS AS

DB DB

DB DB
HSS AS

DB
IP DB
HSS

DB DB SMS, IM & MM

HSS
VMS
MGC MGC MGC MGC

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 4. Using an IP Router with Integrated Signalling


Gateway – Applications Databases Distributed to All Routers

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SS7 over IP

The second configuration consists of using external and centralised applications servers,
causing issues in terms of:

• Latency

• Reliability

• Feature Rollout Synchronisation

• Element Management

• Cost of Ownership

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

HSS AS

HSS AS
G-
Flex IP NP

HSS
SMS, IM & MM

EIR
HSS

VMS
MGC MGC MGC MGC

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 5. Using an IP Router with Integrated Signalling


Gateway – Applications Databases Centralised in External Servers

Centralised monitoring is not possible with this architecture. Therefore, each router
has to be surrounded with probes that are cumbersome to install, not very reliable and
expensive, which increases the complexity of the monitoring system.

In conclusion, using an IP router with an integrated signalling gateway to structure the IP


signalling network leads to a distributed architecture that can generate high operations
costs as well as complex communications relations for IP-routing and signalling. Also, this
architecture is less stable than a star-shaped network architecture.

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SS7 over IP

Structured by Using Standalone Signalling Gateway and Server within a Star Shaped
Network Architecture

The last option to structure an IP signalling network is to use a standalone signalling


gateway and server such as the Tekelec EAGLE 5 platform within a star-shaped
network architecture.

Since IP introduces just a new transport layer, it still makes good sense to implement a
centralized database for routing of SS7/SIGTRAN messages.

M2PA, LSL, HSL

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

HSS SCP
M3UA, SUA, HSL

HSS SCP
M3UA, SUA

M2PA
EAGLE® 5
HSS
DB DB
SMSC

HSS

M3UA VMS

MGC MGC MGC MGC

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 6. Using a Standalone Signalling Server within a Star Shaped


Network Architecture

The EAGLE 5 supports all necessary interfaces, including multiple-link interface types and
industry standards for flexible configuration and connection of network devices – hence
the key to cost-efficient, sensible network growth and management.

The EAGLE 5 is very scalable – enabling operators to purchase the capacity and
connectivity they need to meet their existing network needs. As the network expands,
the EAGLE 5 platform scales to deliver the processing power required to meet the needs
of the largest networks in the world. Operators can grow their business without growing
their inventory of network elements.

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SS7 over IP

Applications such as Mobile Number Portability (MNP), GSM Equipment Identity


Register and HLR Router Optimization are integrated on the EAGLE 5 platform resulting
in low latency and high scalability in terms of database size, transaction per second
and provisioning updates. These attributes become really important in a future IMS
environment, as establishing a SIP session can take up to 6 to 8 database transactions.

Also, in this architecture proposed by Tekelec, the signalling layer is independent of the
IP transport layer. If a MPLS network is used for IP transport, Tekelec assumes that both
the MPLS edge and MPLS core routers are supplied by the customer. There are many
advantages for this approach.

The prioritisation of IP flows is independent from the connected devices. Therefore,


changes in the granularity for flow classification can be done independently of the
capabilities of the EAGLE 5 and other IP connected systems. Furthermore, with a clear
separation between signalling and IP transport, customers can select the best supplier
of MPLS technology as Tekelec does not force a particular device or vendor to be
integrated into the IP infrastructure of the operator. It‘s also usually resulting into a
clear split of responsibilities between signalling and IP transport. This is of particular
interest because these functions are typically taken care of by different groups within the
operator’s organization.

EAGLE 5: Server to Structure IP Networks


SS7 over IP: Comparisons Between Architectures
As stated previously, operators have four different options to design their signalling
IP network. Based on this comparison and in view of Tekelec’s experience gained
in the traditional TDM environment, implementing SIGTRAN does not change the
logical structure of the network. In a SIGTRAN environment as in a TDM environment,
centralised implementation still allows operational cost savings and provides a
predictable and more stable network architecture. The same good reasons for having a
centralized GTT database to support network wide SCCP routing also applies to having
a centralized database for M3UA Routing Keys in order to realize a powerful M3UA
SIGTRAN network.

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SS7 over IP

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

GW/MAP Screening
HSS AS
Roaming Applications
MTP Layer

HSS V-Flex
SMSR AS
MNP
G-Flex SMSF
EIR IDP-
MTP Relay
HSS SCCP MTP
SCCP SMS,
IM & MM

HSS
GTT/SCCP Features
MTP Layer
VMS

MGC MGC MGC MGC

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 7. EAGLE 5 Offers the Most Suitable Architecture to Structure


IP Signalling Networks

Therefore, EAGLE 5 offers the most suitable architecture to structure IP signalling


networks. In addition, EAGLE 5 is uniquely positioned in the marketplace for the
following reasons:

• Provides Operators with an Integrated Monitoring Capability

• Future-Proof Investment

• Robust Platform for Signalling (SS7), Control (SIP, IMS xCSCF) and Interworking (SCIM)

• Connectivity (TDM, ATM, SIGTRAN, SIP, etc.)

• Screening and Accounting

• High Transaction and Large Database Services, Such as NP, FR and EIR

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SS7 over IP

EAGLE 5: Integrated Monitoring


The EAGLE 5 can be equipped with Integrated Monitoring Feed (IMF) to ensure a reliable
data acquisition and feed. It also makes it easy to monitor newly-installed links and also
opens the path for closed-loops applications.

Intl. Intl. Nat. Nat.


GW GW GW GW

HSS AS

HSS AS

HSS
SMS, IM & MM

HSS

VMS

MGC MGC MGC MGC

Data Servers

GW GW GW GW GW GW

Figure 8. Integrated Monitoring with EAGLE 5

EAGLE 5 : Future Proof Investment


The EAGLE 5 is backward compatible – supporting legacy interfaces types, which
protects the operator’s original investment. It provides a path forward to the IMS
network model as well, proving a clear and logical migration path to IMS.

Tekelec created its own IMS core SIP signalling and session management platform called
call session control function (CSCF), to deliver advanced applications over virtually any
network to any device. Built to 3GPP standards, CSCF is the foundation for multimedia
networks. It provides the functionality that operators need today to bring revenue-
generating services to market quickly and cost effectively. With CSCF, operators can offer
next-generation multimedia services today without the overhead of deploying a full scale
IMS network. Operators can buy just the functionality they need to begin rolling out new
services while creating a future proof evolution path to a fully standard compliant
IMS architecture.

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SS7 over IP

Existing EAGLE 5 customers can deploy CSCF with the addition of Tekelec’s industry
standard ATCA shelf. Integration with current legacy EAGLE shelves provides seamless
interworking between legacy and next-gen networks to deliver existing TDM as well as
new IMS services and applications.

IMS
CSCF/SCIM
Connecting
Functionality

SIP/SS7 GW CSCF, AS
Mobility Mgr
Connecting SIP
SGW with SS7 Nodes
SIGTRAN
Connecting MGCs,
SRF – GTT 3G Nodes via IP
MNP
Connecting
HLRs, SCPs
STP
Connecting
Switches
Time

Figure 9. Evolution of EAGLE 5

Conclusion
SS7 over IP is the next evolution for signalling networks. After comparing the different
potential architectures for IP signalling networks (i.e., flat IP network, structured IP
networks with softswitches, IP router with integrated signalling gateways and standalone
signalling server), this paper has demonstrated that implementing SIGTRAN does
not change the logical structure of the signalling network. As in a traditional TDM
environment, the star-shaped network architecture using the EAGLE 5 to structure the
network offers the most suitable architecture. Also, having an independent control layer
allow different parts of the network to expand and evolve without negatively impacting
each other, thus offering a clear migration path towards IMS.

A centralised implementation using EAGLE 5 provides predictable and reliable network


performance. All the IP interfaces required for SS7, SIGTRAN and IMS core network are
supported and database management is made easier. Integrated monitoring ensures
a reliable data feed for revenue and fraud management applications. By integrating
additional applications on the EAGLE 5 platform, operators are assured of low latency.
The network can be easily scaled and the architecture is able to cover huge core network
performance requirements.

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SS7 over IP

Tekelec is a high-performance network applications company that is accelerating the


transition to Internet protocol multimedia subsystem (IMS) networks for service providers
around the globe. Tekelec is the industry leader in developing and providing network
signalling technologies and has proven experience in the delivery of SS7 and SS7 over
IP solutions to the telecommunications market. Tekelec is well positioned and uniquely
qualified to provide and deliver the signalling solutions that meet the demands of
both today’s and tomorrow’s network – enabling operators to seamlessly migrate their
signalling networks when and how they wish.

About Tekelec
Tekelec enables billions of people and devices to talk, text and access the Web. Our
portfolio delivers a unique layer of intelligence allowing service providers to both manage
and monetize the exponential growth in data traffic and applications. Tekelec has more
than 25 offices around the world serving customers in more than 100 countries. For
more information, please visit www.tekelec.com.

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SS7 over IP

Appendix: Acronyms Used in This Document


Glossary of Technical Terms:
3GPP Third Generation Partnership Project

AS Application Server

ATM Asynchronous Transfer Mode

BICC Bearer Independent Call Control

CSCF Call Session Control Function

DPC Differential Pulse Code

EIR Equipment Identity Register

GSM Global System for Mobile Communications

GTT Global Title Translation

GW Gateway

HLR Home Location Register

HSL High-Speed Link

HSS Home Subscriber Server

IM Instant Messaging

IMF Integrated Monitoring Feed

IMS IP Multimedia Subsystem

IP Internet Protocol

LSL Link Support Layer

M2PA MTP2 User Peer-to-Peer Adaptation

M3UA MTP3 User Adaptation

MAP Mobile Application Part

MG Media Gateway

MGC Media Gateway Controller

MM-IM Multimedia Instant Messaging

MNP Mobile Number Portability

MPC Multimedia PC

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SS7 over IP

MPLS Multiprotocol Label Switching

MSC Mobile Switching Center

MTP Message Transfer Part (of SS7 Protocol)

NP Number Portability

PRBT Personalised Ring Back Tone

SCCP Signalling Connection and Control Part

SCIM Service Capability Interaction Manager

SCP Service Control Point

SCTP Stream Control Transmission Protocol

SE Systems Engineering

SER SIP Express Router

SGW Signaling Gateway

SIGTRAN Signaling Transport

SIP Session Initiation Protocol

SMS Short Message Service

SMSC Short Message Service Center

SRF Signalling Relay Function

SS7 Signalling System 7

SSP Service Switching Point

STP Signal Transfer Point

SUA SCCP User Adaptation

TDM Time Division Multiplexed

VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol

VMS Virtual Memory System

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