The Diameter of LTE data services

Phil Marshall/Tolaga Research
20 Jun 2012

LTE is taking the global market by storm with 83 commercial networks having been launched as of the end of May, of which 10 were commercialized in the month of May alone. The objective of LTE is to place mobile operators on a trajectory to economically deliver mobile broadband services with all-IP networks that finally dispense with legacy circuit switched infrastructure. This brings the advantages of a converged IP ecosystem and sees the replacement of legacy SS7 with SIP and Diameter signaling protocols.

The SIP protocol provides session management functionality for telephony, messaging and multimedia communication. Diameter is an extensible protocol that is used to exchange subscriber profile information for a variety of policy, charging, quality-of-service and mobility management functions. In combination, the SIP and Diameter signaling protocols enable advanced personalized mobile service capabilities.

To date most mobile operators have priced and packaged their LTE offers with an emphasis toward bandwidth usage, as opposed to the overall service experience delivered. This dumb-pipe mentality has enabled over-the-top (OTT) players to gain greater control over value creation and compromise the market position of mobile operators. We believe that as LTE ecosystems mature, mobile operators will seek to distinguish themselves relative to OTT players through their ability to personalize and manage the quality of data services delivered over their networks. As this occurs, the Diameter signaling infrastructure and associated policy, charging and subscriber data management functionality will become increasingly strategic for mobile service delivery.

Mobile operators generally recognize their need to focus on customer experience and service personalization, but at the same time typically have conservative implementation strategies. In practice, solutions are complex to implement at scale and must address a variety of demands, which include:

• Scalability: Service personalization and customer experience management will drive a massive increase in core network signaling (aka signaling storms). In particular, future Diameter signaling traffic could easily exceed 100,000 messages per second per million users with personalized service offers. Scalability demands are exacerbated further as the number and variety of interconnected policy, charging and subscriber data nodes increase, with each node driving significantly signaling traffic of their own.

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