By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor
Conversations are changing.
In the past, people could expect to call each other, e-mail or meet in person. But the new conversation experience includes the ability to instantly interact via multimedia with others, video conference from any location and without installing special software, and seamlessly merge several different voice and chat streams.
The session border controllers currently used by many network operators are not meant to handle this complex new communications environment.
“The SBCs at the edge of the service provider network need new functionality to support the continuity and adaptation that these services require,” noted a recent TechZine article on the topic by Alcatel-Lucent’s Ashwin Rana and Laurent Guegan, IP Border Controllers for the Long Term. The authors explain that: “First-generation SBCs aren’t equipped to provide this functionality. They were designed to support the relatively simple data streams associated with fixed VoIP services. Their design can’t cope with the complex streams, high volumes and increased risk associated with IP services like VoLTE, RCS and WebRTC.”
Three things are needed in a session border controller that is optimized to handle data packets for what Alcatel-Lucent has called the “New Conversation Experience.”
First, it must natively include VoLTE’s critical enhanced Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (eSRVCC) function. The eSRVCC function simplifies handovers between 3G and 4G mobile networks.
Second, according to the Alcatel-Lucent blog post, “it must offer the flexibility to independently scale signaling and bearers while maintaining a strong security foundation. This will give service providers a cost-effective means to extend their networks beyond voice to support RCS (signaling intensive) and video (bearer intensive) services in a trusted manner.”
Third, it must help operators realize the return on their existing network investments and pave the way for an enhanced customer experience, particularly that involving WebRTC.
“Ultimately,” noted the authors, “Service providers should select the SBC solution that offers the best combination of performance, features and cost-effectiveness. Solutions that can support higher performance in the same platform will result in lower OPEX. Solution vendors that are committed to innovation will enable service providers to take advantage of new features and functions and add support for new services. With the right choices, service providers will be able to address all services with the same platform and avoid having to invest in point solutions.”
Going all-IP is the goal, and taking a long-term view of the value of next generation SBCs as a key component of that transformation is going to be essential.