Good vs bad signaling

Good vs bad signaling

Doug Suriano  |   July 04, 2012
Tekelec
Lately signaling has gained attention as a culprit of network outages and congestion. Signaling storms have arisen from localized events and small subscriber bases, giving signaling overall a bad name.
 
Operators, however, should welcome an increase in Diameter signaling, the messages responsible for authorization, authentication and access (AAA), policy, charging, quality of service (QoS) and mobility management.
 
Much of signaling’s bad rep is owed to radio access network (RAN) signaling. These messages only establish an internet connection so that the data itself can reach the device. Revenues for connections themselves are very small, yet the volume of these signaling messages required to establish and then release the connection is significant.
 
For example, when a subscriber connects to the internet and downloads an email, 50 or more signaling messages traverse back and forth between the RAN and the gateway GPRS support node (GGSN).
 
But when a subscriber connects to Facebook and stays logged into the account all day, the number of messages mushrooms. The reason is that the service provider does not maintain the internet connection all day. Instead, the connection ends after the initial data is sent and received. The device then re-establishes the data connection seconds later, polls the Facebook server for updates, and releases the connection – requiring another round of RAN signaling messages. And so on and so forth – up to billions of messages per day, with little incremental associated revenue.
 
Diameter signaling traffic, on the other hand, directly correlates to operators’ increased data revenues. The communications among policy servers, charging systems and subscriber databases that Diameter signaling enables are pre-requisites for operators to offer personalized mobile data services. These include tiered tariffs, shared data plans, loyalty programs, “toll-free” or sponsored usage, QoS for specific applications, and enhanced over-the-top (OTT) applications. The result is a bottom-line boost that unlimited services would never provide.
 
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