The wireless telecommunications market is experiencing unprecedented growth
as voice and data networks converge to satisfy subscribers that are
increasingly mobile and information-hungry. Wireless and IP technologies are
working together to deliver content from the Internet and intranets over
To succeed in this quickly evolving market, providers must be able to
adapt their networks with flexible, scalable solutions. They walk a
tightrope in planning how they will evolve their mesh or layered network
architecture. Ever present is the knowledge that profits from long-distance
are dwindling, and unfavorable economic news during the first quarter of
2001 has driven companies and individuals to scrutinize expenditures more
closely than when the American economy was in high gear.
As carriers plan for this growth, it is critical that they consider the
signaling capacity of their networks. As traffic loads in the network grow,
and more messages are sent over signaling networks, one must note the
crucial role that SS7 plays in providing call set up and tear down
information and the intelligence it supplies to support roaming, number
portability, instant messaging, caller identity, screening, and mobile
Internet access. The dramatic subscriber growth and the addition of new data
services threaten to exhaust the signaling capacity of many wireless
Rather than expanding their legacy networks to increase their network
capacity, many mobile carriers are making a technology leap. They are
turning to IP transport to handle network expansion costs effectively. SS7
signaling over IP reduces transport costs, delivers flexible bandwidth,
greater message throughput, and lower network infrastructure cost. It also
lays the groundwork for the next-generation packet telephony network and
positions carriers to deliver the 3G services that will keep them
competitive in the marketplace.
SURGE IN MOBILE SIGNALING
Wireless calls are by nature signaling intensive and require five to
seven times more signaling than a typical wireline call. As the base of
wireless subscribers increases, so does signaling traffic. Dataquest
projects that the number of mobile phone subscribers worldwide will hit the
818 million mark this year -- a 24 percent increase over the year 2000. A
GSM operator in the UK added over 1.5 million net new customers in the last
quarter 2000 alone. And, the industry has not yet reached a 20 percent
penetration of the global market.
The addition of new services like SMS (short message service), E911,
mobile commerce, and high-speed data access is further fueling the surge in
signaling traffic. Additional growth is expected with the use of wireless
application protocol (WAP) phones and the introduction of the new 3G
services on the horizon. According to estimates by Cahners
In-Stat Group, by the year 2004, over 51 percent of all mobile computing
devices shipped will be wireless enabled.
The PSTN was designed to carry one type of traffic -- voice. It is not
well suited to efficiently handle dramatic increases in traffic loads and
the delivery of new, data services. Signaling traffic in today's wireless
network is packet-based. However, the transport of the signaling is based on
the TDM network. As signaling traffic increases, the capacity of the TDM
network must also be increased by the addition of switches and the
point-to-point connections between the elements.
Many wireless carriers are looking to packet technology to solve the
bottlenecks that bandwidth limitation is creating in their networks. Rather
than deploying more and more circuit switches and signaling links with
underutilized capacity, they are choosing to transport the signaling traffic
over high-speed, packet backbones.
Packet switching, a data transmission technology, assembles data into
distinct, digital bundles or packets. Each packet contains a header with
source and destination addresses. Switches or routers in the network read
the information and forward the packet to the appropriate destination
without the need for a dedicated circuit, thus enabling packets from many
different sources or media to be carried over the same pipe simultaneously.
Connections are established on a packet-by-packet basis, and bandwidth is
not allocated until it is actually needed. Unlike circuit-switched networks,
no bandwidth is utilized when there is no information being transported.
Essential to the integration of networks and services is the delivery of
the same quality of service and reliability that consumers have come to
expect from today's fixed PSTN. This translates to interoperability with
existing networks; ubiquitous call completion; carrier-grade reliability and
serviceability; integrated billing and customer care; and transparent
delivery of services such as free phone calls, premium rate calls, calling
cards, voice-messaging, and Internet call waiting This IP-enabled signaling
architecture can help wireless carriers realize the benefits of combining
voice and packet technologies. The reliability, scalability, and robustness
of the PSTN, when coupled with the flexible bandwidth and rapid service
delivery of the packet network, are essential elements to succeeding in
today's rapidly evolving wireless market and tomorrow's 3G world.
Richard (Dick) Hayter is the assistant vice president of marketing for
the Network Systems Division of Tekelec.
Tekelec, a leading supplier of signaling and controls systems, develops
innovative network switching and diagnostic solutions enabling the
convergence of traditional and converged wireline, wireless, and IP voice
and data communications networks. The company also provides products and
solutions for call centers and other telecommunications markets.
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