Kim Gibbons, Chief Marketing Officer, NetNumber

Kim Gibbons, Chief Marketing Officer, NetNumber

Signaling has become the hot buzzword in telecom networks. Managing signaling traffic, combined with the requirement for dynamic provisioning, is fast becoming one of the biggest challenges for operators – and one of the most written about topics by reporters, analysts and bloggers. That’s understandable given signaling control is critical to enabling user authentication and authorization, charging and billing.

Today, vendors and bloggers alike are touting the exponential growth rates of LTE Diameter signaling. One vendor has shared research showing Diameter signaling growing more than twice the rate of mobile data. What’s causing this signaling surge? Much has been written about the increasing number of smartphones and tablets joining the network, in addition to the increasing use of applications that require constant updates and authentications – Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds and the like.

But this view may be incomplete and could steer operators to implementing a solution that worsens rather than solves the problem. Diameter is not the only signaling protocol that is growing – the growing volume of transaction services involving SS7, DNS and ENUM message data, for example, has been more quietly documented.

According to our customers, they see growth in signaling traffic driven by three trends – firstly, the combination of legacy (think phone calls and texting) and new services (social media applications and gaming); secondly, the existence of multiple networks for data, voice and messaging traffic in an operator’s environment; and thirdly, a highly complex signaling environment with multiple types of signaling traffic flowing between the various networks and data base applications like OSS/BSS.

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Most vendors today are solving this problem with a stand-alone server per function approach–the traditional “silo service” affect. These vendors are deploying each function (STP, HSS, NP, LCR, PCRF) in a “virtualized” instance and then moving each appliance to an individual virtual machine. As someone in the industry said recently at an event, “Chaos, when virtualized, is still chaos.”

This does not reduce the signaling traffic flowing between the functions, and in fact, it creates additional complexity by increasing the virtual machine infrastructure required to support this environment.

The real solution for reducing signaling traffic volume–and improving service agility–is to manage and control the signaling traffic via a single common architecture that virtualizes and combines all of the many signaling and database services functions. By combining both scalable database services with a multi-protocol signaling-control engine, signaling traffic loads can be reduced by 50 per cent or more versus traditional multi-platform solutions.

To learn more: visit netnumber.com.

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