Ensuring that legacy networks go the distance

How does a communications service provider (CSP) balance the need to evolve their customers to the latest generation services, while transforming networks to be future-ready, and modernizing legacy systems that will continue to play an important role for many years to come? No wonder many of our customers are left scratching their heads.

What do I do with my SS7 Signaling Transfer Points?

Stranded, High-and-Dry, Isolated, Abandoned, Marooned – All descriptives that explain how CSPs around the world are feeling right now as they continue to evolve and modernize their networks from circuit-switched to VoIP/IMS and from GSM/CDMA to LTE/EPC Diameter-based networks; while at the same time preparing for their 5G futures.

These same service providers continue to support a large base of 2G, 3G and PSTN-based customers that will for an unforeseen amount of time, put a large demand on the legacy Signaling System 7 (SS7) infrastructure.

Since SS7 networks started deploying more than 30 years ago, there have been numerous vendors of Signaling Transfer Points (STP) including most switching equipment vendors and focused suppliers. Network maturity around the globe has led to erosion of investment in the STP market, which in turn has highlighted the crucial need to maintain the integrity of the SS7 network and it’s causing major concern to service providers.

Figure 1: SS7 STP Installed Base of MSU

According to analyst firm Exact Ventures, there is a large and relatively stable installed base of STP MSU’s (Message Signal Unit) that are increasingly in need of replacement.

They estimate that at the end of 2018 there were 284 million MSU’s worldwide, with retirements due to the shifting of traffic to 4G (and eventually 5G) voice and with the consolidation of links, the base will decline slowly, but over time.

The value of the installed base will decline from $2.4 billion at the end of 2018 to $1.5 billion at the end of 2023.

Regardless, the STP continues to play a critical role in the SS7 system, routing and relaying signaling messages between end-points and other transfer-points. With many of these end-points not only still in service, but in some cases growing in number, it’s important to maintain the sustainability of the current SS7 signaling infrastructure while evolution and transformation continue.

Multiple incumbent vendors have faced the decision to divest from, and end-of-life assets such as STP. They have chosen to retire legacy and proprietary equipment which is still instrumental in generating important revenue streams for the CSP and vital for the continual running of CSP networks and services.

It places all providers in a predicament where they are challenged with putting customer services at risk while faced with increased costs, making important decisions such as negotiating out-of-warranty support contracts or choosing to consolidate and modernize with a platform that will see them into a future-proof architecture and operational environment.

So, the major question on the lips of CSPs worldwide is “What do I do with my SS7 Signaling Transfer Points?”

Swap-out, migration and replacement enforcement

Political and governmental concerns over the security threats posed by blacklisted nations have led to the decision that certain equipment will have to be removed from networks. This timely decision amid network modernization initiatives could be seen as the trigger for many operators in those impacted countries to not only replace the affected equipment but to take a holistic look at how the network signaling core, in particular, could be modernized.

Evolution, transformation and not repeating the past

As Communications Service Providers look to refresh their SS7 networks, they need STPs that can de-risk their business, help protect current revenue streams and help transition them to a new software environment based on NFV.

When making transformation investment choices, CSPs should seek a “future-ready” option for new core network technology. Many have realized that continually adding “service silos” only creates continued signaling chaos and doesn’t achieve factors of efficiency to propel them towards a sustainable future. Therefore, new solutions that foster agility, better time to market, simpler vendor management, and lower operating costs will win mindshare – as the cost of poorly performing or failed signaling is too much to risk.

From frequent discussions with CSPs around the world, NetNumber identified the following as key requirements for these transformation and modernization projects: –

  • New deployment practice and architecture akin to NFV, cloud-native, mesh networks, containers, and microservices at the edge.
  • Powerful security solutions, that protect the previously unprotected signaling core, offer fraud management, CLI spoofing prevention, and secure authentication.
  • Significant reduction of legacy internal signaling inefficiencies.
  • Products that can cultivate faster time-to-market configurations and options.
  • Bundled solutions that marry 2G-3G-4G and future generation services and applications.
  • Access and use of real-time data and analytics across the software-based, virtualized, multi-device environment.

A platform for the future

The NetNumber TITAN platform is engineered for service providers looking for a software future. As part of an SS7 signaling transformation solution, it offers a replacement STP that is compatible with other applications in networks while being capable of supporting today’s revenues.

In addition to STP, TITAN handles Signaling Firewall and Diameter Signaling Control (DSC) on the same platform, ensuring security is taken into account throughout network evolution.

The platform has a flexible service layer allowing it to handle diverse customer-specific use-cases in addition to bringing forward legacy services onto a new architecture and is engineered to be 5G-ready.

More information

In a recent webinar, Exact Ventures Founder and Principle Analyst Greg Collins and NetNumber Chief Revenue Office Matt Rosenberg shared market and customer insights regarding evolution, transformation, and modernization of the network signaling core. There is also a new complimentary white paper available – “SS7 is dead, long live SS7.” Both can be accessed here.

For further information please contact info@netnumber.com.




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