You are on page 1of 3

3GPP TS 22.228 [9] and 3GPP TS 23.

228 [10]


From the user‘s point of view the Proxy Call Session Control Function (P-CSCF) is
the entry point into the IMS network. The P-CSCF is a SIP proxy and additionally
handles the following IMS specific tasks:
• User proxy – the P-CSCF received its name not because it is a SIP proxy but
because it represents the user (it acts as a proxy) in the network. All signaling
messages to and from the user always traverse the P-CSCF assigned to a user
during the registration process. In wireless networks such a function is required
since a user can suddenly drop out of the network if they roam out of coverage.
• Confidentiality – SIP transmits all signaling messages in clear text. This is a big
security problem as it allows potential attackers who have gained access to the
network at any point between the user and the SIP network to read and even
modify the content of messages. The IMS thus requires SIP signaling between
the IMS terminal and the P-CSCF to be encrypted. This is done by establishing
an encrypted IPSec [12] connection between an IMS terminal and the P-CSCF
during the registration process [13]. This encrypted connection will then be
used while the user remains registered.
• Signalling compression – as has been shown above, SIP signaling messages are
quite large. In the IMS the message size grows even more due to additional
parameters for functionalities described later on. The larger a message the
more time is required for transmitting it.
• Quality of service and policy control – the P-CSCF has an interface to the
underlying wireless network infrastructure (GGSN,ASN-GW,MME, etc.) to ensure
a certain quality of service for a media stream (e.g. minimum bandwidth for a
voice call to be ensured during a session). Policy control ensures that the link
between two subscribers for a session is only used for the types of media
negotiated between the subscribers and the network.
• Billing – like all IMS components the P-CSCF function can generate billing
records for post-paid subscribers which are sent to a billing server for offline
SIP User Agents are usually configured by the user or out of the box to be aware of
the IP address of the first SIP server they need to contact for registration. This
approach is not flexible enough. The IMS standard therefore defines a number of
additional options for a User Agent to obtain the IP address of the P-CSCF at startup.

The S-CSCF and Application Servers

The central component of the IMS framework is the Serving Call Session Control
Function (S-CSCF). It combines the functionality of a SIP registrar and a SIP proxy.
High-capacity networks will require several physical S-CSCFs. One user will be
managed by a single S-CSCF while registered to the IMS network and all SIP
requests have to be sent to this S-CSCF. Users can be assigned by a load-sharing
algorithm to a particular S-CSCF at registration time.
After registration the P-CSCF’s main task is to forward the SIP messages between
the IMS terminal and the S-CSCF. It is the S-CSCF that will then decide how to
handle a message and where to forward it. In the case of a SIP ‘invite’ message the
S-CSCF has to decide how to proceed with the session setup request. For a simple
post-paid voice session establishment for which no additional services are invoked
the S-CSCF’s main high level tasks are as follows:
• The S-CSCF recognizes from the SDP payload in the invite message that the user
requests a voice session and checks the subscriber‘s service record to confirm
they are allowed to originate calls.
• The S-CSCF then analyzes the destination address, which could either be a SIP
URI (e.g. or a TEL URL (tel:+49123444456).
If the user wants to establish a session with a TELURL the S-CSCF needs to
perform a database lookup to determine if the destination is an IMS subscriber,
that is if the TEL URL can be converted into a SIP URI. Otherwise the telephone
number belongs to a circuit-switched service subscriber and the session has to
be forwarded to a circuit switched network.
• In the case of a SIP URI, the S-CSCF checks if the destination is a subscriber of
the local or a remote IMS network by looking at the domain part of the SIP URI
(e.g. If the destination is outside the local IMS network the S-
CSCF will then look up the IP address of the SIP entry proxy of the remote
network (the I-CSCF, see below) and forward the invite message to the foreign
• The S-CSCF then stays in the loop for all subsequent SIP messages and creates
charging records for the offline billing system so the user can later on be
invoiced for the call.
The S-CSCF is also responsible for many supplementary services. Example: hidden
telephone number or SIP URI.
Other functionalities such as presence, instant messaging, push-to-talk and many
other services are also done on an application server rather than in the S-CSCF.
More formally application servers can work in the following modes:
 as a User Agent (as described above);
 as a SIP proxy by changing the content of a SIP message it receives from an
S-CSCF and returning the message back to the S-CSCF;
 as a back-to-back User Agent – this means that it terminates a session as a
terminating User Agent towards the S-CSCF and establishes a second SIP
session as an originating User Agent.
The S-CSCF’s decision when to contact an application server is based on ‘initial filter
criteria’ that are part of the user‘s configuration profile.

The I-CSCF and the HSS

The third logical type of SIP proxy in an IMS network is the Interrogating-CSCF (I-
CSCF). SIP messages traverse the I-CSCF in the following cases.
When a User Agent registers with the IMS, for example during startup, the first
action is to find the P-CSCF as described above. Afterwards it will send a SIP
registration message to network to announce its availability. The P-CSCF then needs
to forward the message to an S-CSCF. Since the IMS can be a distributed system
and since the user has not yet been assigned an S-CSCF, the P-CSCF forwards the
registration message to an Interrogating-CSCF. The I-CSCF of the user is found using
a DNS lookup with the user identity in the SIP registration request. The message is
then forwarded to the I-CSCF which will then interrogate the Home Subscriber
Server for the S-CSCF name or the S-CSCF capabilities required by the subscriber.
When the HSS receives the request, it retrieves the user‘s subscription record and
returns the required information. Based on the S-CSCF name or the services the
user has signed up to in combination with the knowledge about the capabilities of
individual S-CSCFs, the I-CSCF then selects a suitable S-CSCF and forwards the