Structure of the PSTN

• • • • •

Transport or transmission (PDH, SDH) Switching (see previous lecture) Subscriber signalling (analog or digital) Network-internal signalling (SS7) Intelligent Network (IN) concept

Basic components also for circuit-switched core of mobile networks (PLMN)

Basic functional parts of the PSTN
PSTN Switching in exchanges Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

PSTN  Circuit-switched technology
Circuit-switched network
Based on 64 kbit/s channels (TDM time slots) Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) Connection-oriented operation (setup & release connection => call) Charging is based on time duration of connection Optimized for delaysensitive services (speech)

Packet-switched network
No fixed channel concept (bit rate is not constant) Statistical multiplexing (greater flexibility) Connectionless operation (independent routing of packets) as default More flexible charging solutions QoS solutions required for delay-sensitive services

IP network as alternative to PSTN
Voice traffic can naturally also be carried over Packetswitched (IP) networks. This topic is covered in a future lecture. PSTN

Switching in exchanges

Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

IP network Quality-of-Service (QoS) support needed!

Transmission: PDH or SDH systems
PSTN Switching in exchanges Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

64 kbit/s channel (or TDM time slot)
This is the basic transport unit in both PDH and SDH transport systems. Note that switching in exchanges in the PSTN is also based on 64 kbit/s TDM time slots. When used for voice transport, a 64 kbit/s channel contains PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) speech, generated according to ITU-T specification G.711. Analog speech signal (300…3400 Hz) Sampling produces 8000 samples/s Each sample is encoded into an 8-bit PCM code word (e.g. 01100101)

=> 8000 x 8 bit/s

PDH and SDH transmission bit rates
PDH (Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy)
Japan J1 J2 J3 J4 1.5 Mbit/s 6 32 98 USA T1 T2 T3 T4 1.5 Mbit/s 6 45 140 Europe E1 E2 E3 E4 2 Mbit/s 8 34 140

SONET (North Am.)
STS-1 STS-3 STS-12 STS-48 51.84 Mbit/s 155.52 622.08 2.488 Gbit/s

STM-1 STM-4 STM-16

Structure of E1 frame (2.048 Mbit/s)
012 16 31

32 TDM time slots (with 8 bits each / frame) Time slots 1-31 carry digital signals (usually PCM speech) with a bitrate of 64 kbit/s. Time slot 0 is used for frame synchronization:
received bit stream ... where does a new frame begin?



Time slot 16 usually contains SS7 signalling information.

Structure of STM-1 frame in SDH
9 3 1 5 SOH SOH 261 bytes STM-1 payload (contains the actual information) AU pointer indicates where the virtual container starts in the payload field
STM = Synchronous transport module SOH = Section overhead AU = Administrative unit

Higher-order STM-4 signal is generated using synchronous byte interleaving:
byte from first STM-1 signal

… …

byte from second STM-1 signal byte from third STM-1 signal byte from fourth STM-1 signal

Bitrate of STM-1 signal
9 3 1 5 SOH SOH 261 bytes STM-1 payload Basic idea: bytes from a 64 kbit/s channel are carried in successive STM-1 frames (exactly one byte per frame).

STM-1 frame contains 9 x 270 bytes => bitrate of STM-1 signal: 9 x 270 x 64 kbit/s = 155.52 Mbit/s

Mapping into STM-1 frames

SOH AU-4 pointer points to first byte of VC SOH P O H VC-4 (Virtual container)

Virtual container “floats” within the payload of STM-1 frames

POH = Path overhead


260 bytes

Filling of STM-1 payload in practice
In reality, the STM-1 payload is filled like this:


STM-1 frame N

Beginning of virtual container


Path overhead bytes

STM-1 frame N+1

Beginning of next virtual container

SDH pointer adjustment (1)
When VC-4 clock rate is larger than STM-1 clock rate => pointer value is shifted forward three bytes SOH Pointer value updated SOH old new VC-4 (Virtual container)

Three “empty” bytes are inserted here

SDH pointer adjustment (2)
When VC-4 clock rate is smaller than STM-1 clock rate => pointer value is shifted back three bytes SOH Pointer value updated VC-4 (Virtual container) AU-4 pointer Three VC bytes are stored here STM-1 payload old new

Payload mapping
STM-1 can carry 63 E1 signals. SDH systems nowadays also carry ATM and IP traffic.


More about SDH…
• SDH pocket guide (there is a link to this material on the course home page) • • Section 4.4.1 in ”Understanding Telecommunications 1” by Ericsson Telecom, Telia and Studentlitteratur 1998 (the corresponding online course is sometimes available at

Subscriber signalling
PSTN Switching in exchanges Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

Analog subscriber signalling
The calling party (user A) tells the local exchange to set up (disconnect) a call by generating a short (open) circuit in the terminal => off-hook (on-hook) operation. The dialled called party (user B) number is sent to the local exchange in form of Dual Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) signal bursts. Alerting (ringing) means that the local exchange sends a strong sinusoid to the terminal of user B. In-channel information in form of audio signals (dial tone, ringback tone, busy tone) is sent from local exchange to user. User can send DTMF information to network.



3 4

Analog subscriber signalling in action
User A Off-hook Dial tone B number LE A SS7 signalling (ISUP) LE B User B
LE = local exchange

Ringing signal Off-hook (user B answers)

Ringback tone (or busy tone) Connection established

ISDN subscriber signalling in action
User A Off-hook B number
Setup Call proc

LE A SS7 signalling (ISUP)


User B
DSS1 signalling messages Setup Alert

Ringing Off-hook (user B answers)

Tones generated in terminal

Alert Conn Conn

Connection established

What does ISDN originally mean?
1. End-to-end digital connectivity 2. Enhanced subscriber signaling
Idea originated in the 1980’s

3. A wide variety of new services (due to 1 and 2) 4. Standardized access interfaces and terminals ISDN is not a “new” network separated from the PSTN. Interworking with “normal” PSTN equipment is very important. interaction is possible

ISDN terminal

PSTN terminal

PSTN vs. ISDN user access
PSTN 300 … 3400 Hz analog transmission band “Poor-performance” subscriber signaling 2 x 64 kbit/s digital channels (B channels) 16 kbit/s channel for signaling (D channel) => Digital Subscriber Signalling system nr. 1 (DSS1) 30 x 64 kbit/s digital channels (B channels) 64 kbit/s channel for signaling (D channel) Mainly used for connecting private branch exchanges (PBX) to the PSTN.

Basic Rate Access ISDN Primary Rate Access ISDN

End-to-end digital signalling

User interface Q.931


User interface Q.931




Q.921 I.430

Q.921 I.430


Q.921 I.430

Q.921 I.430

contains the signalling messages for call control

Signalling System nr. 7 (SS7)
PSTN Switching in exchanges Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

History of inter-exchange signalling
Before 1970, only channel-associated signalling (CAS) was used. In CAS systems, the signalling is carried inband along with the user traffic. SS6 = CCIS (common channel interoffice signaling) was deployed in North America as an interim solution, but not in Europe. CCIS is not the same thing as SS7. Starting from 1980 (mainly in Europe), CAS was being replaced by SS7. The use of stored program control (SPC) exchanges made this possible. Like CCIS, signalling messages are transmitted over separate signalling channels. Unlike CCIS, SS7 technology is not monolithic, but based on protocol stacks.



Channel-associated signalling (CAS)
CAS means in-band signalling over the same physical channels as the circuit-switched user traffic (e.g. voice).
Signalling is possible

Exchange Exchange
Signalling is not possible before previous circuitswitched link is established

Circuit switched connection

CAS has two serious draw-backs: • Setting up a circuit switched connection is very slow. • Signalling to/from databases is not feasible in practice (setting up a circuit switched connection to the database and then releasing it would be extremely inconvenient).

Common channel signalling (CCS)
In practice, CCS = SS7.
Signalling is possible anywhere anytime




The packet-switched signalling network is totally separated from the circuit-switched connections. Consequently: • Signalling to/from databases is possible anytime. • End-to-end signalling is possible before call setup and also during the conversation phase of a call. There is one drawback: It is difficult to check if the circuit-switched connections are really working (= continuity check).

Signalling example
Tokyo User A (calling user) Exch London Database A typical scenario: User A calls mobile user B. The call is routed to a specific gateway exchange (GMSC) that must contact a database (HLR) to find out under which exchange (MSC) the mobile user is located. The call is then routed to this exchange. Exch Exch Oulu User B (called user)

Protocol layers (“levels”) of SS7

ISDN User Part (ISUP)
SS7 application protocol for managing circuit-switched connections

Application protocols (e.g. Mobile Application Part, MAP) Transaction Capabilities Application Part (TCAP) Signalling Connection Control Part (SCCP)

MTP user

MTP level 3 (routing in the signalling network) MTP MTP level 2 (link-layer protocol) MTP level 1 (64 kbit/s PCM time slot)

SS7 protocols vs. OSI model
SS7 protocol stack MAP ISUP … TCAP OSI protocol layer model Application Presentation Session Transport SCCP MTP level 3 MTP level 2 MTP level 1 Network Data link Physical

OSI protocol layer model

Application layer Presentation layer Session layer Transport layer Network layer Data link layer Physical layer

User application (in this case, the actual signalling messages) Data compression & coding Dialogue control End-to-end flow & error control Switching & routing through the communications network Link-layer flow & error control Multiplexing & transport of bits, time slots in PDH or SDH systems

Message Trasfer Part (MTP) functions
MTP level 1 (signalling data link level):
Digital transmission channel (64 kbit/s TDM time slot)

MTP level 2 (signalling link level):
Frame-based protocol for flow control, error control (using Automatic Repeat reQuest, ARQ), and signalling network supervision and maintenance functions.

MTP level 3 (signalling network level):
Routing in the signalling network between signalling points (using signalling point codes). MTP level 3 ”users” are ISUP and SCCP (other ”users” such as TUP or DUP are not widely used any more).

MTP level 2 frame formats
MSU (Message Signal Unit) F CK SIF
Level 3 user information





LSSU (Link Status Signal Unit) F CK SF LI Control F

Network: • National • International User part: • ISUP • SCCP • Signalling network management

FISU (Fill-In Signal Unit) F





MTP level 2 frames
MSU (Message Signal Unit): • Contains actual SS7 signalling messages • The received frame is MSU if LI > 2 (LI = number of octets) LSSU (Link Status Signal Unit): • Contains signalling messages for MTP level 2 (signalling link) supervision • The received frame is LSSU if LI = 1 or 2 FISU (Fill-In Signal Unit): • Can be used to monitor quality of signalling link at receiving end • The received frame is FISU if LI = 0

Signalling points (SP) in SS7
Network elements (relevant from signalling point of view) contain signalling points identified by unique signalling point codes. STP
Signalling Transfer Points only relay signalling messages



Signalling Point (in a database, such as HLR in mobile network)

ISUP Signalling Point (signalling termination in an exchange)


Signalling point code (SPC)
SS7 signalling messages contain MTP level 3 routing information in the form of a routing label:

International (and most national) signalling networks (ITU-T): 14-bit Destination Point Code (DPC) 14-bit Originating Point Code (OPC) 4-bit Signalling Link Selection (SLS) North American national signalling network (ANSI): 24-bit DPC and OPC, 5-bit SLS code

Signalling message payload

Format for international SPC:
Zone 3 bits Area/Network 8 bits SP 3 bits For examples, see:

Same SPCs can be reused at different network levels
International SPC = 277


SPC = 277

SPC = 277 means different signalling points (network elements) at different network levels. The Service Information Octet (SIO) indicates whether the DPC and OPC are international or national signalling point codes.

ISDN User Part (ISUP)
ISUP is a signalling application protocol that is used for establishing and releasing circuit-switched connections (calls). • Only for signalling between exchanges (ISUP can never be used between an exchange and a stand-alone database) • Not only for ISDN (=> ISUP is generally used in the PSTN) Structure of ISUP message:
SIO (one octet) Routing label (four octets) CIC (two octets) Message type (one octet) Mandatory fixed part Mandatory variable part Optional part

Must always be included in ISUP message E.g., IAM message E.g., contains called (user B) number in IAM message

ISUP signalling messages
Basic ISUP signalling messages: Call setup: IAM (Initial address message) ACM (Address complete message) ANM (Answer message) From LE A to LE B From LE B to LE A

Call release: REL (Release message) RLC (Release complete message) Direction depends on releasing party (user A or user B)

Difference between SLS and CIC
The four-bit signalling link selection (SLS) field in the routing label defines the signalling link which is used for transfer of the signalling information. The 16-bit circuit identification code (CIC) contained in the ISUP message defines the TDM time slot or circuit with which the ISUP message is associated. Signalling link STP Exchange Circuit Exchange

Signalling using IAM message
STP SL 4 SL 7 SPC = 82 Circuit 14 Exchange Outgoing message: OPC = 82 CIC = 14 DPC = 22 SLS = 4 Exchange SPC = 22 Circuit 20 SPC = 60



Processing in (transit) exchange(s): Received IAM message contains B-number. Exchange performs number analysis (not part of ISUP) and selects new DPC (60) and CIC (20).

Setup of a call using ISUP
User A LE A Transit exchange LE B User B

DSS1 signalling assumed

Number analysis


Setup Alert





Charging of call starts now



Call setup: Signalling sequence 1
User A Off hook Dial tone B number LE A TE LE B User B

Local exchange detects setup request and returns dial tone

Local exchange:
• analyzes B number • determines that call

should be routed via transit exchange (TE)

Call setup: Signalling sequence 2
User A LE A TE LE B User B

Initial address message (IAM) ISUP message IAM is sent to transit exchange (TE). TE analyzes B number and determines that call should be routed to local exchange of user B (LE B). IAM message is sent to LE B. There now exists a circuit-switched path (the path is “cut through”) between user A and LE B.

Call setup: Signalling sequence 3
User A Ringback tone or Ringing signal is sent to user B (=> user B is alerted). Ringback tone (or busy tone) is sent to user A. (Ringback/busy tone is generated locally at LE A or is sent from LE B through circuit switched path.) LE A TE LE B User B

Address complete message (ACM)

Ringing signal

Call setup: Signalling sequence 4
User A Charging starts now LE A TE LE B User B User B answers

Answer message (ANM)

Conversation over this “pipe” User B answers, connection is cut through at LE B. Charging of the call starts when ISUP message ANM is received at LE A (the normal case). The 64 kbit/s bi-directional circuit switched connection is now established.

E.164 numbering scheme
In each exchange, the B number is analyzed at call setup (after the IAM message containing the number has been received) and a routing program (not part of ISUP) selects the next exchange to which the call is routed. 00 358 0 Prefix Country code Area code 9 358 or mobile network code, e.g. 40 9 9 1234567 1234567 1234567 International number National number User number

E.164 number structure
Max. 15 digits 00 Prefix Country code (1-3 digits) 358 9 1234567 Subscriber number National destination code (1-3 digits) Area code, e.g. 9 Mobile network code, e.g. 40
For examples, see:

MSISDN number

Signalling sequence for call release
User A LE A TE LE B User B

Conversation over this “pipe” On hook Charging stops Release message (REL) Release complete message (RLC)

The circuits between exchanges are released one by one. (The generation of “hanging circuits” should be avoided, since these are blocked from further use.)

Signalling Connection Control Part (SCCP)
SCCP is required when signalling information is carried between exchanges and databases in the network. An important task of SCCP is global title translation (GTT):
STP with GTT capability




1. Exchange knows the global title (e.g. 0800 number or IMSI number in a mobile network) but does not know the DPC of the database related to this global title. 2. SCCP performs global title translation in the STP (0800 or IMSI number => DPC) and the SCCP message can now be routed to the database.

Why GTT in STP network node?
Global title translation (GTT) is usually done in an STP. Advantage: Advanced routing functionality (= GTT) needed only in a few STPs with large packet handling capacity, instead of many exchanges. Exchange Exchange Database







Example: SCCP usage in mobile call
Mobile switching center (MSC) needs to contact the home location register (HLR) of a mobile user identified by his/her International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number.
SCCP/GTT functionality STP SCCP MSC located in Espoo SPC = 82 Outgoing message: OPC = 82 DPC = 32 SCCP: IMSI global title SPC = 32 SCCP HLR located in Oslo SPC = 99 Processing in STP: Received message is given to SCCP for GTT. SCCP finds the DPC of the HLR: DPC = 99

More about SS7…
• Chapter 4 in ”Engineering Networks for Synchronization, CCS7, and ISDN” by P.K.Bhatnagar 1997 (this belongs to the distributed course material) • • Part E in ”Understanding Telecommunications 2” by Ericsson Telecom, Telia and Studentlitteratur 1998 (the corresponding online course is sometimes available at

To sum it up with an example…
Part B, Section 3.3 in ”Understanding Telecommunications 2” Typical operation of a local exchange PSTN Transmission (PDH, SDH)

Subscriber signalling (analog or ISDN=DSS1)

Networkinternal signalling (SS7)

Databases in the network (HLR)

Basic local exchange (LE) architecture
Modern trend: Switching and control functions are separated into different network elements (separation of user and control plane).
Subscriber stage LIC LIC Time switch Tone Rx

Switching system
Group switch ETC ETC Sign. TDM links to other network elements Exchange terminal circuit SS7 Signalling equipment

Tone generator Line interface circuit
• Switch control • E.164 number analysis • Charging • User databases • O&M functions

Control system

Setup of a call (1)
Phase 1. User A lifts handset and receives dial tone.
Local exchange of user A 4. Tone Rx is connected 1. Off hook LIC LIC 5. Dial tone is sent (indicating “network is alive”) Time switch Tone Rx

Switching system
Group switch ETC ETC Sign.

Tone generator

2. Check user database. For instance, is user A barred for outgoing calls? 3. Reserve memory for user B number

Control system

Setup of a call (2)
Phase 2. Exchange receives and analyzes user B number.
Local exchange of user A

Switching system
LIC LIC 1. User A dials user B number Time switch Tone Rx Group switch ETC ETC Sign.

2. Number (DTMF signal) received 3. Number analysis

4. IN triggering actions? Should an external database (e.g. SCP, HLR) be contacted?

Control system

Setup of a call (3)
Phase 3. Outgoing circuit is reserved. ISUP Initial address message (IAM) is sent to next exchange.
Local exchange of user A

Switching system
LIC LIC 1. Tone receiver is disconnected 2. Outgoing circuit is reserved 3. Outgoing signalling message (ISUP IAM) contains user B number Time switch Tone Rx Group switch ETC ETC Sign.

E.g., CIC = 24

IAM (contains information CIC = 24)

Control system

Setup of a call (4)
Phase 4. ACM received => ringback or busy tone generated. ANM received => charging starts.
Local exchange of user A

Switching system
LIC LIC 2. Ringback or busy tone is locally generated 4. Call continues… Tone generator Time switch Group switch ETC ETC Sign. ACM, ANM

1. ISUP ACM message indicates free or busy user B 3. Charging starts when ISUP ANM message is received

Control system

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