How service providers can bring legacy into the 21st century
Digital transformation has been one of the most talked about topics in recent years, writes Robin Kent, the director of European operations at Adax. And in response to the buzz, there have been plenty of column inches dedicated to the importance of modern organisations becoming agile. This is not surprising. Business agility is critical for a business to survive in the 21st century, as it enables them to effectively meet constantly morphing customer expectations.
The telecoms industry had predicted that in a bid to keep up with end user demands, service providers would rip and replace their legacy infrastructure as the introduction of 4G loomed. But this didn’t happen. There was a vision that the focus would shift exclusively to all-IP, but as we’ve seen, this hasn’t materialised. Equipment manufacturers who appeared to cut their legacy connectivity offerings, such as Cisco, which announced the end-of-life of its IP Transfer Point (ITP), were too quick to make the leap and their promised seamless integration from legacy to LTE is broken and in need of repair. Because of this, service providers which held tight before making any knee-jerk reactions, are the ones who are indeed benefitting now.
From the outside, it is easy to see why service providers might want to focus on providing better 4G connectivity. Recent research from consumer watchdog Which? found that the rest of the UK is lagging behind London when it comes to accessing 4G data services. On average, UK users can only connect to 4G 50% of the time, with users in Wales only being able to connect just over a third (35% ) of the time. However, the legacy connectivity for existing voice, SMS and IN applications still remains an absolute requirement. It is crucial for service providers to grasp how their legacy technology, such as time-division multiplexing (TDM) equipment, can work alongside IP over shared-use networks. In doing so, not only can they keep up-to-date with modern-day user demands, but also protect their investment in legacy equipment.
Protecting previous investments
When it comes to future proofing their networks whilst getting the most bang for their buck, service providers can continue to use the legacy TDM equipment they have invested in at the edge, but focus on modernising the core by using VoIP and SIGTRAN to transmit calls and data over long distances.
Supplanting long-distance, dedicated, TDM circuits with IP over shared-use networks provides substantial savings for service providers by reducing their core network transport costs and negating the need for the costly rip and replacement of legacy switching systems. Which will be music to the ears of shareholders, as it will keep capital expenditure at a minimum during these politically uncertain times.
There are also solutions available to service providers that will route SS7 traffic over an IP network to an IP-enabled device, or route IP traffic over an IP network to an SS7 device. M2UA backhauls further provide transparent connectivity between traditional, circuit-switched SS7 signaling points and any IP-enabled signaling element. By using MTP2 to M2UA interworking, service providers require no modifications to the MTP3 layer, addresses or routes on either side of the network. They will also not require any additional point codes, which is a huge benefit for providers because introducing new codes can require the whole network to be rearchitected, and in a large network, there may not be any available.
Forty years on
It is still important to maintain legacy infrastructure to meet the current demand to interconnect different networks. Multi-protocol solutions are required to connect divergent circuit and packet switching architectures. SS7 technology isn’t retrograde – it’s traditional. Forty years on, it is still the most robust, high performance, and reliable signaling solution out there and it’s needed today more than ever.
Service providers need to concentrate on delivering a saleable and flexible solution to manage the convergence and growth of their networks whilst maintaining legacy connections and infrastructure. It is the only way they will continue to grow and satisfy end user demand.
If digital transformation should have taught us anything it is that customer expectations are increasingly difficult to predict, therefore a successful organisation is an agile one yet one that doesn’t throw all their eggs into one basket. Rather, successful service providers will be the ones that don’t supplants their legacy infrastructure with modern technologies to continue their efficacy through changing times.
Ten years ago, the telecoms market wrongly predicted the total demise of circuit switching and the complete replacement of TDM by IP, with some large hardware manufacturers following suit. Yet, today the situation is oddly different. Service providers need to realise as much return on investment in their networks as possible, whilst keep their capital expenditure low. Therefore, they are having to rely on legacy TDM equipment, but bring them up-to-date to meet modern-day user demands.