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April 22, 2015

Will the Mobile Internet Require SS7 2.0?

Back in the days when I tried (unsuccessfully) to contain Dialup, I was an advocate of an adaptation of SS7 signaling and Radius to enable pre-switch traffic management. We had various fiascos about people who had successfully logged onto the Internet with dialup, causing switch delays for the rest of the calls, or in a few cases shutting down the switch entirely.

Today, we live in a “broadband” Ethernet world. While consumers have fiber / cable modems, enterprises are moving off their “T-1”s and being pushed on to Ethernet services. Faster and cheaper sounds all well and good, until you add volume.

However, when it comes to wireless, I ended up with a series of conversations that basically brought me back to my routes.

It seems that we are flooding the wireless network with diameter signals to the point where the signaling itself can start to resemble a denial of service attack.

There are several indicators of signaling overload:

Chatty Apps

How many apps do you have that, for no good reason other than spying and marketing analytics, requires you to be connected to the network? Some of them are just plain silly, including slot machines that track every spin, or solitaire card games that seem to think that each card is being dealt from the cloud. All of this traffic is acceptable in your wireline “broadband” connection, but on a mobile phone it’s a ‘keep alive’ that is killing the network.


In my own case, it was when Washington, DC, was hit with an earthquake. All of sudden everyone and their brother was calling, texting and posting about their experience and adding their queries about what was happening and if those they care about were OK.

IoT Packet Storms

When Scott Sumner from Accedian Networks was talking to me, I started with my normal degree of skepticism. Most IoT has very low bandwidth requirements, so traffic shaping and policy management seemed like overkill. However, as he talked he brought up two important points. The first was that in a disaster, thresholds on IOT devices can flood the network and being TCP-based would keep flooding until it gets through.

Secondly, the reality is that the migration from wireline -- to 2G and 3G -- has not led to a redesign of the signaling, just a swap-out of the transmission mediums. So the result is that we get chatty devices now trying to call out on LTE networks.

While the carriers are looking to restrict the uplink with LTE Cat 0 and Cat 1 transmission connections, the devices are not going in this direction. Jeff Smith, CTO of Numerex, points out that even if Cat 0 is adopted it will be part of a modular design to include GPS, so the result is we are doubling the signals.

At the end of the day, this makes me see a new opportunity for Session Border Controllers and other gateway systems. It also convinces me that Fog architectures are going to be adopted.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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