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In the 21st century, telephones and other communications devices are being used in new and innovative ways. This represents a major historical shift for the telecommunications industry. The telecommunications industry has grown dramatically over the past two decades. Worldwide connectivity and inter operability has revolutionized trade across cultural and geographic borders. Fax and data services have enhanced the versatility of telephone devices and networks. The Internet has experienced dramatic growth with millions of users worldwide. In the last five years, several factors have driven the telecommunication industry to look at a new way to provide services to any device, anytime, anywhere. The traditional public switched telephone networks (PSTN) although were reliable and robust were built on hardware based circuit switching model that leave the changeability and extensibility for service addition. The coupling between the hardware and software was very tight making use of COTS and services extremely difficult to add. A migration to the Internet and IP (Internet Protocol) networks using the flexible packet switching technology, in comparison to traditional telephone networks using circuitswitching technology is a solution but that would have meant the existing investments in PSTN networks would have been totally wasted. Hence the need of the hour was to look for a hybrid PSTN/IP environment, which was found in the form of soft switches. The emergence of softswitches signified advancements in telecommunication switching architecture by having better technology and better software architecture. This is limited to the advancement in software architecture due to the introduction of softswitch.
Definition of a Softswitch
Softswitch is the generic name for a new approach to telephony switching that has the potential to address all the shortcomings of traditional localexchange switches. The softswitch is where all the service intelligence
resides for the delivery of local telephone services. Softswitch technology solutions can lower the cost of local-exchange switching, present the means to create differentiated local telephony services, and ease the migration of networks to support packet voice end-to-end. Packetized voice involves the digitizing, compressing, and dividing of voice into packets. These packets can then be sent from the sender, via various routes, to the receiver, whereupon they are reassembled. Softswitch, media gateway controller, call agent, gatekeeper are the varied nomenclatures that have been attached to the products that perform the functions that are coming to be called softswitches. Gatekeeper is the ancestor term, derived from VoIP systems in which gateways converted the voice and signaling from analog PSTN and SS7 to IP packets. The gatekeeper controlled one or more gateways, guiding the setup and teardown of voice circuits between the two kinds of networks. Media gateway controller is an elaboration of gatekeeper, growing out of the first efforts to standardize the control of media gateways using a protocol called media gateway control protocol (MGCP). Call agent is a highly generic term that attempts to describe all systems that handle call-control functions. softswitch Softswitch (software switch) is a generic term for any open application program interface (API) software used to bridge a public switched telephone network (PSTN) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by separating the call control functions of a phone call from the media gateway (transport layer).
Chapter 3 MOTIVATION OF SOFTSWITCH
Motivation for the Softswitch
By far the most complex part of a local-exchange switch is the software that controls call processing. This software has to make call-routing decisions and implement the call processing logic for hundreds of custom calling features. Today’s local-exchange switches run this software on proprietary processors that are integrated tightly with the physical circuit-switching hardware itself. The inability of existing local-exchange switches to deal directly with packet voice traffic, however, is a major barrier to packet voice migration. In the future, delivery of local telephony will come over a purely packet-based infrastructure. But for years to come, the migration path to end-to-end packet voice will require working with a hybrid network handling both packet and circuit voice. Current Market trends The telecommunications landscape is changing dramatically due to economic and technology changes. Service providers and vendors alike are required to respond to these changes in order to thrive. The points have been borrowed largely from the reference
Worldwide deregulation of the telecommunications industry is creating new market opportunities for traditional and innovative services Increased competition is emerging in every market - local, national and worldwide - and geographic limits to competition are disappearing Evolution to a single voice/data network is moving rapidly, driven by the inefficiencies and costs associated with maintaining two networks (PSTN and IP).
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Voice over packet is increasingly reliable and high-quality 'Always-on' solutions are now technically possible Improved bandwidth and lower costs are available for all types of communications Higher-value packet-based services are more customizable, faster to come to market and easier to deploy and manage, enabling providers to differentiate their offers and capture high-value customers.
One possible way to address all this is to create a hybrid device that can switch voice in both packet and circuit formats, with all the necessary call processing software integrated into this switch. While this approach may help address the question of migration, it does not necessarily lower the cost of local-exchange switching or improves the prospect for differentiated local voice services.
Separation of Functionality: Need of the Hour
The telecom industry appears to have reached broad consensus that the best answer lies in separating the call processing function from the physical switching function and connecting the two via a standard protocol. In softswitch terminology, the physical switching function is performed by a media gateway (MG), while the call processing logic resides in a media gateway controller (MGC). There are a number of reasons why this separation of functionality is believed to be the best approach:
It opens the way for smaller and more agile players who specialize in call processing software and in packet-switching hardware respectively to make an impact in an industry that has been dominated by large, vertically integrated vendors. It enables a common software solution for call processing to be applied in a number of different kinds of networks, including combinations of circuit-based networks and packet voice networks using multiple different packet voice formats and physical transports. It allows standardized commodity computing platforms, operating systems, and development environments to be leveraged, thereby bringing considerable economies to the development, implementation, and processing aspects of telephony software. It allows a centralized intelligence in a service provider’s voice network to remotely control switching devices located in customer premises, a key requirement for the full exploitation of IP telephony in the future. Separation between Media Gateway and Media Gateway Controller requires a standardized protocol for communication between the two, and an appropriate standard is now emerging.
Chapter 4 ARCHITECTURAL DETAIL
The key architectural consideration should include: · Interoperability with Telecom equipment and carriers ·Services and protocols integration · Bandwidth and external connectivity required · Sizing requirements · Equipment required · Network operations interface(s) required · Operations management requirements · Scale as you grow criteria for services and volume · Service availability requirements
Architecture of softswitch organization
The architecture of the softswitch can be seen to be divided into the following software planes. They represent the separation between the functional entities in a Voice over IP (VoIP) network. There are four distinct functional planes employed by the soft switch to describe the functioning of an end-to-end VoIP network:
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Transport Call Control & Signaling Service & Application And Management.
The basic functionality served by the transport plane is to handle and transport call signaling, call and media setup messages across the VOIP network. Now the transport mechanism used could be based on any technology conforming to the standards e.g. SS7 ANSI or ITU. This plane to the external world is like an access form where they can enter to use the services of call control. So often if we look at the implementations the Transport Plane devices and functions are controlled by functions in the Call Control & Signaling Plane. The transport plane gets sub-divided broadly into three domains:
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IP Transport Domain Interworking Domain and Non-IP Access Domain.
Let us look at each of them:
IP Transport Domain The IP Transport Domain comprises of: • The transport backbone and routing/switching fabric • Devices like routers and switches domain. • Devices that provide Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms and policies for the transport also belong to this domain. Interworking Domain This domain comprises of: • The devices that are primarily responsible for the transformation of signaling or media received from external networks into a form that can be sent among the various entities in the VoIP network and vice versa. • It consists of devices like Signaling Gateways (signaling transport conversion between different transport layers), Media Gateways (media conversion between different transport networks and/or different media), and Interworking Gateways (signaling Interworking on the same transport layer but with different protocols). Non-IP Access Domain The Non-IP Access Domain applies primarily to • Non-IP terminals and wireless radio networks that access the VoIP network.
• Consists of Access Gateways or Residential Gateways for non-IP terminals or phones, ISDN terminals, Integrated Access Devices (IADs) for DSL networks, Cable Modem/Multimedia Terminal Adaptors (MTAs) for HFC networks, and Media Gateways for a GSM/3G mobile radio access network (RAN).
Call Control & Signaling Plane
The Call Control & Signaling Plane is like the centralized arbitrator exercising control over the major elements of the VoIP network, especially in the Transport Plane. This is the heart of the system and performs the basic call processing and signaling. When we say call processing and signaling we essentially means handles the subscriber requests for setting up and tearing down the voice circuit, carries out call control based in signaling messages received, controls components in Transport Plane, ensures digit translation and routing based on directory numbers, maintains trigger detection points to access the intelligent database, keeps the finite state necessary for maintaining the call context etc. Summarizing it controls what essentially is switch has to do for setting up and releasing a call. The Call Control & Signaling Plane consists of Devices like the Media Gateway Controller (a.k.a. Call Agent or Call Controller), Gatekeepers and LDAP servers.
Service & Application Plane
The Service & Application Plane provides the controls the logic and execution of feature servers and other applications like intelligent networks which are mean to provide various services to the subscriber. The devices in this plane control the flow of a call based on the service execution logic. They achieve this by communication with devices in the Call Control & Signaling Plane. The Service & Application Plane consists of devices like Application Servers and Feature Servers. The Service & Application Plane can also perform the control of specialized bearer components, such as Media Servers, that perform functions like conferencing, IVR, tone processing etc.
The Management Plane is responsible for providing functions such as subscriber and service provisioning, operational support, billing and other network management tasks. It can interact with any or all of the other three planes through industry standard (e.g. SNMP) or proprietary protocols and APIs. That is to say it forms the operation and maintenance zone. The functional entities are the logical entities of a VoIP network. This plane caters to the on the fly needs of the switch in expansion and modification of networks and entities.
Chapter 5 MAJOR COMPONENTS
Major Components of a Softswitch:
A Softswitch can consist of one or more of these components. These functions can reside in one system or span across several systems.
1. The Gateway Controller is one of the key functional units of the
Softswitch. The Gateway Controller holds the call processing rules, but uses the Media Gateway and Signaling Gateway to perform the job. There are many types of protocol media managers that need to be controlled those that access the softswitch through Transport plane. It is the responsibility of the Signaling Gateway to perform call set-up and teardown and media gateway basically controls and coordinates the operations. An example could be sending data related to call set up to signaling media manager and receiving finite state messages in response. The gateway controller here is like an arbitrator for the signaling interface and the corresponding stack utilizing its service. In addition, it interfaces to the OSS and BSS systems. Often this unit is referred as Call Agent or Media Gateway Controller interchangeably. Sometimes the Call Agent by itself is referred as a Softswitch. This component communicates within other parts of the Softswitch and also the external networks using different protocols.
2. The Signaling Gateway serves as the gateway between the SS7
Signaling network and the nodes managed by the Softswitch in the IP network. A Signaling Gateway requires physical connectivity to the SS7 network and must be aware of the required protocol suites. There is a standardized implementation of SS7 signaling protocol both ANSI and ITUT which is managed by the gateway. The services of the stack are given to external world via the gateway which takes care of API formation and retrieval for incoming and outgoing messages and presenting the extracted data to the external world which may not need to worry of the stack PI
3. The Media Gateway handles the voice media data payload (the
digitized samples of speech during conversation). In the future, video data will also need to be supported. In the current model, the Media Gateway must support connectivity to a TDM bus carrying voice media data to the Telco switch side. Applicable voice data encoding, decoding and compression are also performed by the Media Gateway. It also supports legacy telephony (PSTN) interfaces and protocols such as CAS and ISDN.
4. The Media Server performs peripheral functions, to enrich the
Softswitch with media capabilities. If required, it supports digital signal processing (DSP) resources. If IVR functionality is needed (eg: to prompt voice responses), those tasks would be performed by the Media Server. A Media Server when applicable would also serve video Media.
5. The Feature Server provides all the revenue generating features and
services such as billing, multi-party conferencing, etc. The Feature Server uses the resources and related services located on other components of the Softswitch. It may also support certain services to meet certain implementation necessity e.g.: Gatekeeper
Chapter 6 BENIFITS
Benefits of the Softswitch:
The distribution of functionality will enable the benefits of improved feature development and delivery as well as lower costs. Distributing functionality means that switches will be simpler, more efficient, and cheaper. Switches will be able to focus on switching, allowing other components to provide network control and service logic. Distributed service logic means that application development will not be constrained to centralized creation, control, and delivery of services. Instead, services can be created and deployed at various places through an extended network. The benefits of the Softswitch approach will include: New revenue stream for service providers and operators Flexibility, which supports the development of highly programmable telephony equipment
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Several types of e-business, accessible using newer devices Unified messaging Enhanced customer services that it reduces time to market Easy integration of dissimilar networks and network components Lower cost of development, deployment and ownership.
Highly Flexible Architecture
A soft-switch-based system provides network design engineers with a highly flexible, fully distributed, open standards-based network architecture. A well-architected softswitch separates call-control intelligence and services software from media hardware with open, standards-based interfaces between the different layers. Typically, call-control and signaling intelligence resides within the softswitch, while services intelligence is distributed among the softswitch and application servers that reside at an upper layer. The interface between the softswitch and different types of media hardware is provided by open protocols, such as Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP), H.248/Megaco and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). The interfaces between the softswitch and application servers are also open and standards-based, and use protocols such as SIP and H.323, and tools like Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Java in advanced intelligent networks. This gives network designers the flexibility to choose best-of-breed components from multiple vendors for their media hardware and software needs. The fully distributed architecture allows network topologies with media devices located throughout the network, while the softswitch provides centralized call control and services. Such a network can be quickly scaled without the need to deploy expensive circuit switches in each new market. Furthermore, by enabling voice transport and services over packet-switched networks while seamlessly inter-working with the public-switched telephone network (PSTN), softswitches play a critical role in enabling the design of a common packet network for converged voice and data services. Qualities Imparted:
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Loose Coupling Better Extensibility Higher Changeability Ability to Interoperate with COTS Better Scalability
The most important characteristic of the next-generation network is an open architecture. A softswitch utilizing an open architecture provides best-ofbreed vendor selection, a platform for third party development of new services and service provider empowerment. Service providers are able to
select best-of-breed products that allow them to harness innovation regardless of vendor. The softswitch is the engine powering the next generation network, controlling edge devices such as media gateways and broadband Integrated Access Devices (IADs) and interfacing to third party feature servers and back office systems, including billing. Rapid deployment of converged services will be made possible by open softswitch architecture. Third party software companies will revolutionize data and voice communications. By using standards-based protocols and open APIs such as SIP, JAIN, XML or even H.323, service providers will be able to harness converged services from third party vendors within a fraction of the time and cost compared with today's PSTN. Qualities Imparted:
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Changeability Extensibility Interoperability Portability
The next-generation architecture requires a transition from a mainframe-type telephony system to a distributed system, which will drive modular systems, and provide cost-effectiveness. The switch is decomposed into three layers i.e. layered architecture. The softswitch will be the strategic component in service providers' networks because it has the potential to function as the network operating system of the new public network. The softswitch gives the service provider the freedom and flexibility to add ports where it needs to by simply adding to an existing media gateway or by rapidly bringing a new media gateway online. In addition to the quick turn-up time, service providers can also penetrate new markets without the multi-million dollar class switch investment. Service providers can add a media gateway with a low port count to a new market. As business grows, more ports or additional media gateways can be added. The softswitch controls the media gateway via a media gateway protocol such as the Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP). To reduce operational training and back office complexity, functionality can be located remotely, controlling media gateways across an entire region. The call control elements can be collocated with the media gateways or distributed across service providers' backbones. Qualities imparted:
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Ease of creation Ease of Maintenance Localization of changes Layered Architecture Simplified Design
The softswitch architecture is fully modular and has the ability to distribute modules in the network any way the service provider wants. It is a fully distributed, highly scalable and fault-tolerant architecture. Faults are easy to locate, and their impact is localized. The fixes do not have any global significance and maintenance becomes easier. Qualities imparted:
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Reliability Modularity High Availability Maintainability
Existing infrastructure support
Interoperability with the existing Public Telephone Network is critical during the transition to the new public network. The softswitch interfaces to media devices and feature servers and receives call signaling from the PSTN over SS7 links. Additionally, a softswitch can utilize backhauled channel associated signaling for interfacing with customer premises equipment. With this combined capability, a service provider obtains a complete solution for optimizing its circuit network and migrating traffic to the packet network. A softswitch with these capabilities offers a cost-effective way for service providers to migrate to next-generation networks, while they continue to use their legacy class 4 and 5 TDM switch equipment until those reach their endof-life.
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Cost Efficiency Reduced Time to Market Reuse of Existing Investments
Chapter 7 USAGE
USAGE OF A SOFTSWITCH
Softswitches can support a wide variety of services. It is important to understand the business focus of the switching applications in order to select the most appropriate suite of services for the environment. This allows the business to maximize its return on investment in Softswitch technologies. In the telephone industry, there are many services that can be given but require better switching facilities. Many popular enhanced services include call forwarding, call hold, call transfer, call waiting, caller ID, three-way and multi-party conferencing. The advent of Internet usage over telephone system has resulted in new services such as click-to-dial and Internet call waiting. Several companies currently offer these features. The integration of the telephone network with wireless networks and cable networks presents major opportunities to offer value-add services. These types of services are best supported by the Softswitch approach. Most Softswitch services are usually related to revenue, in which billing becomes an important function. There are many variations in call plans, group plans, and business arrangements with external service providers, applicable rates and the type of connection circuits. It is required to work with the existing Operations Support System (OSS) that handle many types of operational details, as well as the Business Support System (BSS) which also performs the actual billing. The flexibility of Softswitch technology allows a provider to support a wide variety of billing options. Softswitches can support traditional features offered to telephone systems customers such as consultation hold, call forwarding, conferencing, etc., as described in the local telephone directory.
Other services that can be given by the Softswitch are:
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Emergency calling (911) Toll-free 800 calls Calling cards and pre-paid calling cards Virtual call center IP Centrex
Chapter 8 AN EXAMPLE
An Example for Understanding
The figure corresponds to a hypothetical architecture
We have assumed that the softswitch has a CORBA based architecture with Call Server, Media Managers implemented in C++ and the operation and maintenance in JAVA. Any external communication between these is via IDLs with the ORB. The ORB has idl to cpp and java compiler and can locate the servers by a naming service. We would like to clarify our understanding of the role of the call processing, service and application fame, and management plane from a practical example of a call and try to justify why the different planes are needed. Lets see how the planes come into action as a subscriber requests for a call. Assume a subscriber planning to request for a call picks up the telephone cradle. The process starts from their with the loop getting closed and the corresponding signaling handler (GR 303 e.g.) giving the information of the subscriber going busy to the call control. The call control now knows that the subscriber is busy so in the mean time if there is an incoming call for that subscriber it has to take care of that (returning busy or voice mail). The
subscriber places the request after dial tone is fed to him and the digits are carried to the call control plane. It is now the duty of the control plane to ensure the circuit set up and tear down and for this the media controller which resided in the Call Control and Signaling Plane would hand over the message in the required format for the corresponding media manager e.g. SS7 signaling media manager which will direct it to the stack which is a part of the Transport Plane. The signaling media manager based on the response from the SS7 stack would handle and complete the required operations like allocating the circuit and stuff. Consider the case that the customer wants to call the number 1-800-PIZZAHUT. The intention of the subscriber and the nature of the number demand that the nearest Pizza hut be connected. Here is where the Services and Application Plane comes in to the picture. The call control analyzes the directory number of the subscriber and has triggers defined for different nature of numbers. Here the trigger for an intelligent service which is based on say number 1-800 invokes the services of an intelligent relational database handler Service Control Point (SCP) which resides in the Service & Application Plane. The Call Control would forgo the control at this moment and the service and application plane takes over returning the new number based on the data supplied by the call control plane. This is the nearest Pizza Hut directory number and the call control plane once again on getting the correct destination number proceeds with the rest of the routing sending the messages to the stack to set up the call and allocate a circuit the details of which are beyond the scope of this document. The service and application frame makes addition of the services easier since they can be creating without disturbing the call control plane. Newer services can be added to the switch by putting most of the logic in SCP. Similarly for mobile and other applications there could be other feature servers, which can take care of easy addition of newer services, which are required for in a competitive market. To see the functionality of the management plane lets consider that the telephone company wants to see if the call control plane or the transport plane operations are working fine. This is done utilizing the functionality of the Management Plane, which can be designed using the fault tolerance patterns mentioned. The Management Plane also takes care of the billing data of the subscriber, provides the operator interface for maintenance, performs functions like invoking alarms and diagnostics, monitoring of the switch functionality collects traffic data, creates, deletes and modifies entries like say addition of Data Link Card or new hardware alarm monitor or ATM concentrator.
This describes a migration path for broadband packet-voice access: a migration moving from a transport-only solution that relies on a conventional local-exchange switch toward a full-fledged local-exchange softswitching and access solution that delivers packet voice dial tone. By far the most important ingredient in this migration path is to the softswitch technology that forms the basis of the MGC. The softswitch is where all the service intelligence resides for the delivery of local telephone services. A far higher level of capability is required for this type of softswitch than for today’s tandem softswitch applications where functionality is limited to Interworking between PRI, SS7, and VoIP signaling. For local telephony, the softswitch must not only deliver a critical mass of local telephony features but also provide a feature creation environment that enables service providers to develop differentiated services. The development of a local-exchange softswitch that is truly capable of meeting these requirements is a major undertaking. But for those who succeed in reaching this goal, an awesome prospect lies ahead: nothing less than the total transformation of the local telephone network.
1.www.iec.org 2.www.mobilein.org 3.www.bitpipe.com 4.www.sun.com 5www.wiki.cs.uiuc.edu
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