With legacy circuit-switched equipment rapidly reaching retirement age, telecom service providers around the globe are focused on evolving to all-IP networks utilizing SIP and Diameter signaling, and additionally, on migrating to virtualized and cloud-based platforms. With compelling advantages that range from opex and capex cost savings to multimedia applications and service portability, all-IP Next Gen and IMS networks certainly do represent a big leap forward from the installed base of circuit-switched networks that rely on Signaling System 7 (SS7) protocols and Signaling Transfer Point (STP) switches for end-to-end connectivity.
However, despite the many compelling advantages of all-IP broadband networks, it would be premature to declare SS7 and STP’s “dead”. In fact, SS7 signaling is still very much alive and kicking. So the question is: why does SS7 live on and remain relevant today? Well, one reason for SS7’s continued vitality is that it serves as a central nervous system for the PSTN and PLMN, and can therefore be relied upon to guarantee global connectivity for both voice and SMS services as the world gradually transitions to all-IP networks over the coming decade. A second reason for SS7’s on-going relevance can be attributed to the success of mobile Short Messaging Service (SMS) and the fact that it continues to live on despite fierce competition from OTT Instant Messaging alternatives. In fact, SMS text messaging usage has actually been aided in recent years by its integration into compelling new applications such as Visual IVR, mobile marketing, and mobile payments. Clearly, with demand for these sort of applications on the rise, network operators will want to ensure that their SS7 and STP infrastructures remain fully supported well into the foreseeable future.
While the SS7 protocol itself is unquestionable robust and readily able to address most of today's networking challenges, in too many cases the same cannot be said about the associated STP switching infrastructure, much of which tends to be extremely dated and deployed on proprietary TDM hardware platforms. Unavoidably, end-of-life STP switches supporting E1 and T1 spans today will likely require appliance-based replacement solutions; however, there are also STP’s dedicated to supporting SS7 over IP-based facilities (SS7 over IP is called SIGTRAN), and these particular STP’s could be candidates for virtualized STP solutions that offer opex and capex savings along with improved service agility.
For operators around the globe, legacy SS7 services are neither dying out nor being rendered defunct by IP messaging applications. Moreover, with the number of global STP suppliers now dwindling, the question being pondered by many network operators is not “when will SS7 be dead?”, but rather, “when should I replace my unsupported STP’s?”
With a focus on solving today’s challenges, Dialogic offers a suite of both virtualized and appliance-based signaling solutions. If an STP replacement might be in your future, we invite you to learn more by downloading the Dialogic DSI STP datasheet.