Diameter is coming, but probably not as quickly as analysts would have you believe. But even if you are not considering Diameter directly, migration in peer networks may have an impact on your network. It’s time to consider how to protect your network and ensure service continuity while partner networks migrate to EPC and LTE.
Today’s telecommunications infrastructure includes a diverse mix of protocols. Most of our customers are aware of the complexity of interconnecting an array of networks and elements and our role in helping them to achieve a co-ordinated, resilient network. Two common protocols play a hugely significant role in networking today – SS7 and Radius.
SS7, of course, is used for the co-ordination of both user session data (voice, video and so on) as well as interaction with key network elements, such as online charging systems, Intelligent Network entities (such as Service Switching Points and Specialised Resource Functions), while Radius is primarily used for AAA procedures (Authentication, Authorisation and Accounting). This means that an SS7 enabled softswitch might need to use SS7 CAMEL to connect to an online charging server for prepaid subscribers, while at the same time checking a user profile database using Radius.
However, as networks migrate towards LTE, the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and IMS, many of these functions will be replaced by a new, common protocol: Diameter. The same softswitch may instead need to be able to communicate with Diameter to deliver the same functions.
Diameter is a protocol of growing importance. It provides AAA capabilities as well as satisfying requirements for location and mobility in 3G, LTE, and IMS networks. It has become the most prominent signalling protocol in NGN networks and is expected to replace both SS7 signalling and Radius, which delivers much of this functionality today, just as SIP is increasingly becoming the predominant session control protocol.
Diameter provides a number of advantages over Radius – in particular, in terms of improving network reliability and resilience – which is clearly of fundamental importance if it is truly to replace SS7 connections. In a further post, we shall explore some of the differences, but the fact that concerns us for now is that much of today’s equipment will need to either migrate towards Diameter or else support interconnection with the new protocol.
There have been a number of forecasts regarding the proliferation of Diameter-enabled devices. While it’s clear that Diameter deployments are accelerating, primarily because of LTE network penetration, the general replacement of Radius and SS7 signalling is a massive task and will take many years. After all, it’s more than a decade since analysts forecast the death knell of SS7 and it’s still going strong.
Instead, what we expect is that network operators that are not migrating to IMS or LTE will increasingly need to interconnect with Diameter-enabled devices in other networks. We also expect that many solutions that are today enabled by SS7 and Radius will be declared end-of-life by their vendors. This means that operators that expect to see a more graceful transition to Diameter may be forced to consider network enhancements earlier than anticipated.
Squire Technologies is preparing to meet this challenge. We are investing in solutions that will prolong the life of existing solutions while helping transition to the next generation of networks. It will be essential to support Diameter / SS7 interworking, which will mean that existing SS7-enabled solution can connect to new solutions that support Diameter as they are brought online.
Our expertise will enable us to support operators through this transition and ensure service continuity, even when existing vendors pull the plug on their systems. The migration from Radius and SS7 to Diameter is going to take years. Even if Diameter isn’t in your current thoughts, it is in the thoughts of your peers. It may be that implementing it in your network is several years away – but you need to consider how migration plans from other operators may affect you.
If, for example, you connect to an HLR in another operator’s network, the chances are that this will migrate towards an HSS supporting Diameter within the next couple of years. When this happens, what options will be open to you? That’s what we are here to help with. We can help ensure that you can continue to connect to services and devices, even when they transition to new protocols beyond your control.
If you are concerned about how general migration to Diameter might affect you, why not give us a call to see how we can help?