Back to the future: telcos can enable legacy equipment

Everyone is talking about digital transformation. Whether it’s column inches in tech publications, the boardrooms of some the biggest enterprise companies on the globe, or even discussions over a beer down the local pub, everyone is having their say.

One word that keeps cropping up in these conversations is agility. 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.

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But, this didn’t happen. There was a vision that the focus would shift exclusively to all-IP, but 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.

Making the most of past 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.

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This 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 signalling points and any IP-enabled signalling element.

By leveraging 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 re-architected, and in a large network, there may not be any available.

A glimpse of the future

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 signalling 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.

What we can learn

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.

>See also: The role of telcos in smart cities

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.

Predictions that claimed circuit switching would die a slow death and the complete replacement of TDM by IP were some way off the mark. Today, service providers need to keep their capital expenditure low, while realising as much return on investment in their networks as they can.

It is therefore essential to maximise the capabilities of their legacy TDM equipment, but bring them up-to-date to meet modern-day user demands.


Sourced by Robin Kent, director of European operations, Adax

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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