SS7: when end-of-life is a great opportunity to modernise the network

News

Signalling system 7 (SS7) might be thirty years old, but it is in wide use and will be so for many years to come, yet its maturity is creating a crisis.

Operators around the globe are evolving and transforming their networks and services towards 5G, through circuit-switched technologies like GSM and CDMA, and those controlled by Diameter, such as LTE and evolved packet core.

Many support a large base of 2G, 3G and PSTN-based customers and will continue to do so for a long time to come, which puts a large demand on the Signalling System 7 (SS7) infrastructure.

Signalling transfer points (STP) plays a critical role in SS7 infrastructure, routing and relaying signalling messages between end points and other transfer-points.

What’s more, these end-points are not only still in service, but in some instances  multiplying.

When operators started deploying SS7, there were many STP providers, including most switching equipment vendors. Now the maturity of the technology means they are increasingly scarce, which is a big concern to operators.

Minimal signs of decline

Analyst Greg Collins, founder of Exact Ventures, reckons there were 284 million STP message signal units (MSUs) worldwide at the end of 2018, which despite major network tech upgrades, most notably 5G, will only decline to 258 million MSUs – or by just 2% annually on average.

He also pointed out that at the end of 2018, fewer than 20% of subscribers used voice over LTE for voice, and expects that in 2023, 3.9 billion – more than half the world’s voice subscriptions – still use 2G and 3G networks.

The big question is, how can operators maintain the integrity of their SS7 networks? This question was addressed in detail by Collins and Matt Rosenberg, Chief Revenue Officer, NetNumber, in a new webinar.

It looked at the market and outlined possible approaches the looming STP crisis, including extended warranties, migration and replacement, and their various merits, including economic viability and critical success factors.

It also shows how this daunting end-of-life scenario can be transformed into a golden opportunity to gain unprecedented visibility into networks and make operations far more data-driven.

Register here to listen at your leisure and you can download the slides for reference too.