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Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

Table of Contents
Introduction 2 Creating a Signaling Layer in IP Networks 3 USE CASE 1: Centralized Routing 4 USE CASE 2: LTE Roaming 6 USE CASE 3: HSS Address Resolution 7 USE CASE 4: LTE-to -2G/3G Roaming 7 USE CASE 5: PCRF Binding 8 USE CASE 6: Charging Proxy 9 Summary 12 About Tekelec 12 Appendix: Acronyms Used in This Document 11

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

Introduction
Mobile data traffic is skyrocketing, fueled by the introduction of data-enabled devices smartphones, netbooks, e-readers, and tablets - and compelling applications like mobile video and social networking. And, based on current trends, traffic levels will not level off in the foreseeable future. According to Ciscos Visual Networking Index (February 2011), there will be a 26-fold increase in global mobile data traffic between 2010 and 2015 - a staggering compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 92 percent. Operators realize that their 3G networks are not equipped to sustain this high level of traffic growth. They are looking to all-Internet protocol (IP) networks such as IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) and long term evolution (LTE) to deliver the bandwidth required to support data-hungry devices and applications. Diameter protocol, which uses stream control transmission protocol (SCTP) or transmission control part (TCP) for transport, is widely deployed in the all- IP, serviceoriented IMS and LTE architectures. Within the control and service planes, the application-layer protocol plays a central role in authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA), policy, charging, and mobility management. Diameter serves as the interface between numerous network resources in 3G and 4G networks, including: gateway GPRS support nodes (GGSNs), HRPD serving gateways (HSGWs), mobility management entities (MMEs); online charging systems (OCSs); offline charging systems (OFCSs); policy and charging rules function (PCRF); and application servers. In the absence of a Diameter signaling core implemented by Diameter agents (DAs), endpoints require a direct signaling connection to each other, creating a mesh-like network architecture. They must handle all session-related tasks such as routing, traffic management, redundancy and service implementation. Initially, deploying an IMS or LTE network without a signaling core may be sufficient. However, as traffic levels swell, the lack of a capable signaling infrastructure poses a number of challenges, some of which are already being seen today in 3G networks. These include: Scalability: Each endpoint must maintain a separate SCTP or TCP association with all of its Diameter peers as well as the status of each, placing a heavy burden on the endpoints as the number of nodes grows. Congestion control: Diameter lacks the well defined congestion control mechanisms found in other protocols such as signaling system 7 (SS7). For example, if a home subscriber server (HSS) has multiple Diameter front ends, insufficient congestion control increases the risk of a cascading HSS failure. Network interconnect: A fully meshed network is completely unworkable when dealing with connections to other networks because there is no central interconnect point, which also exposes the operators network topology to other operators and can lead to security breaches. Interoperability testing (IOT): Protocol interworking becomes unmanageable as the number of multi-vendor devices increases. With no separate signaling or session framework, IOTs must be performed at every existing node when a new node or software load is placed in service. IOT activities require a considerable amount of operator time and resources, with costs increasing in proportion to the number of tests that must be performed. 2

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent Support for both SCTP- and TCP-based implementations: SCTP-based elements cannot communicate with TCP-based elements unless they are upgraded or all of the elements support both protocol stacks. Subscriber to HSS mapping: When there are multiple HSSs in the network, subscribers may be homed on different platforms. Therefore, there must be some function in the network that maps subscriber identities to HSSs. With no separate Diameter signaling infrastructure, that task could be handled by the HSS. This approach wastes HSS and possible MME (or call session control function [CSCF]) processing, adds unnecessary delays, and may even result in the need for more HSSs than would otherwise be necessary. PCRF binding: When multiple PCRFs are required in the network, there must be a way to ensure that all messages associated with a users IP connectivity access network (IP-CAN) sessions are processed by the same PCRF. According to Ciscos Visual Networking Index (February 2011), there will be a 26fold increase in global mobile data traffic between 2010 and 2015 a staggering compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 92 percent.

Creating a Signaling Layer in IP Networks


The Diameter protocol defines a new network node - the Diameter agent (DA) - which operators can leverage to create a Diameter signaling layer in IP networks. The DA performs essential network tasks that include relay, proxy, redirect, and translation. By consolidating these functions at the DA, operators can relieve endpoints of routing, traffic management and load balancing tasks and create a single interconnect point to other networks. This approach eliminates the Diameter/SCTP/TCP, a consequence of having point-to-point signaling connections between each network element. The resulting architecture, which reduces the cost and complexity of the core network, enables IP networks to grow incrementally to support increasing service and traffic demands.

Benefits
Improves signaling performance and scalability by alleviating issues related to the limited signaling capacity of MMEs, HSSs, CSCFs, and other Diameter endpoints Simplifies network expansion by limiting routing configuration changes for new endpoints to the DA Increases reliability by providing geographic redundancy Provides mediation of Diameter variants to support interoperability between multivendor endpoints Creates a gateway to other networks to support roaming, security and topology hiding Reduces provisioning, maintenance and IOT costs associated with adding new network nodes Enables HSS routing flexibility with integrated HSS address resolution function

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent Creates a centralized monitoring and network intelligence data collection point to isolate problems and track key performance indicators (KPIs) Provides network-wide PCRF binding to ensure that all messages associated with a users particular IP-CAN sessions are processed by the same PCRF This paper explores six use cases that demonstrate the applications and associated benefits of the Diameter agent in IMS and LTE networks: Centralized Routing LTE Roaming The MMEs connect to a mated pair of DAs, which interface to the HSS front ends and to other networks. HSS Address Resolution LTE-to-2G/3G Roaming PCRF Binding Charging Proxy

USE CASE 1: Centralized Routing


Problem
Operator A, a large mobile operator, deployed an LTE network to increase bandwidth, lower costs and improve performance of data-enabled applications. The operator has experienced significant growth in its subscriber base and needs to expand its network with new MMEs and HSS front ends. The addition of the new resources presents a challenge. Diameter protocol, using SCTP for transport, interconnects many of the network elements in the operators evolved packet core (EPC). Each Diameterbased element must have a direct SCTP association with every element to which it is connected, creating a logical mesh network. As a result, the addition of new resources requires configuration and routing updates at each and every network element.

Solution
With a DA, Operator A can decrease the cost and complexity of its core LTE network. The DA serves as a Diameter relay, thereby reducing the number of SCTP associations in the network and offloading Diameter routing tables and routing-status maintenance from the end nodes. The MMEs connect to a mated pair of DAs, which interface to the HSS front ends and to other networks. When Operator A deploys new MMEs or HSS front ends, routing updates are required only at the DAs.

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent
Foreign LTE Domain vMME vPCRF vS4-SGSN vSGSN Foreign GPRS Domain

EPC Mobility Management

Gr

S6a

S9

S6d Sh

SLF

MAP-Diam IWF

IMS Registration

Sh

Rx

IMS PCC

Cx

IP-SM-GW

SPR
Policy PCRF P-CSCF Gx MME S13 Gz I/S-CSCF

AS Access to HSS

AF

PGW

Rf

EIR
EPC Equipment Check Gy Rc EPC Charging Ro Re

ABMF

RF

IMS Charging

Home LTE/IMS Domain

Figure 1. Centralized Routing (before)

Foreign LTE Domain vMME

vPCRF SS7

Foreign GPRS Domain vSGSN

Diameter Agent

Diameter Agent

vS4-SGSN

Diameter Agent

IP-SM-GW

AF

PGW MME PCRF

ABMF

P-CSCF

I/S-CSCF

Home LTE/IMS Domain

Figure 2. Centralized Routing (after) 5

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

Benefits:
Reduces the complexity and improves the scalability of the core LTE network Lowers OPEX by simplifying provisioning and updates Creates a more flexible architecture

USE CASE 2: LTE Roaming


Problem
Because the LTE network has no core routing layer, there is no central interoperability point from which to manage roaming to/ from other networks, and the endpoints must take on all traffic and routing management tasks. Operator B, has encountered a problem when its LTE subscribers roam into foreign LTE networks. Because the LTE network has no core routing layer, there is no central interoperability point from which to manage roaming to/from other networks, and the endpoints must take on all traffic and routing management tasks. This set-up not only burdens the endpoints, but also creates potential security threats. Because there is no network demarcation point, the operator has no way to hide its topology or effectively secure the network..

Solution
By deploying a DA, Operator B can create a single interconnect point to other networks. The DA consolidates all incoming and outgoing network traffic and handles the management tasks associated with roaming handoffs. As the first point of contact at the networks edge, the Diameter agent provides a centralized vantage point from which the operator can defend against potential overloads or attacks.
Operator B

Operator_2 MME
HSS FE HSS FE HSS FE HSS FE Diameter Agent
PCRF

PCRF

Diameter Agent
Diameter Agent
PCRF

Operator_N

MME

MME

MME

MME

Figure 3. LTE Roaming

Benefits
Increases network security and hides network topology Simplifies routing and interconnection to other networks

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

USE CASE 3: HSS Address Resolution


Problem
Operator C plans to deploy new HSSs in its LTE network but has encountered an issue. With the addition of new HSSs, the operators subscribers will be homed on different platforms. Operator C must find a cost-effective solution to provide and maintain the association of subscriber to HSS.

Solution
The DA centralizes routing data and provides the mapping between a subscriber identity (e.g., IMS Public ID, IMSI) and an HSS. This flexibility enables Operator C to easily move subscribers from one HSS to another. With the DA, subscriber number ranges can be split over different HSSs and individual subscriber numbers can be assigned to any HSS.
eNode B 1 2 Diameter Agent LTE 3 MME

SGW Subscriber 1

Subscriber 2

Subscriber 3

Figure 4. HSS Address Resolution

Benefits
Simplifies HSS provisioning by centralizing routing data Enables dynamic updates as new HSS are placed in service Provides for easy support of mergers and acquisitions

USE CASE 4: LTE-to -2G/3G Roaming


Problem
Operator D deployed an LTE network and provided its subscribers with multi-mode handsets. Since many of its roaming partners have not deployed LTE, Operator Ds subscribers are encountering problems when they roam in 2G/3G networks because of the disparity in protocols used to manage mobility. Mobile application part (MAP) protocol is used in 2G/3G networks as the interface between nodes such as serving SGSNs and home location registers (HLRs) for mobility management and authentication. In LTE, MAP has been replaced with the Diameter protocol. To support seamless roaming and handoffs between LTE and 2G/3G networks, Operator D needs a function to interwork the two protocols.

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

Solution
The DA, serving as a gateway to other networks, provides the Diameter/MAP interworking function to enable seamless subscriber roaming. Along with message mapping, the DA provides mapping between SS7 addresses/point codes and Diameter node IDs. This allows Operator D to support seamless roaming and handoff between LTE and 2G/3G networks.

Subscriber 1

The DA ensures that subsequent messages over the Gx, S9, Gxx, or Rx reference points are sent to the same PCRF.
Operator D Diameter Diameter Agent MAP

Subscriber 1

IP

vSGSN

SS7

Roaming Network

Figure 5. LTE-to-2/3G Roaming Update Location Depiction

Benefits
Simplifies network migration to LTE Supports seamless 2G/3G roaming

USE CASE 5: PCRF Binding


Problem
Operator F is planning to deploy multiple PCRFs in its network to improve scalability. Operator F needs a way to balance the assignments of user IP-CAN sessions to PCRFs and to make sure all messages for a subscriber are handled by the same PCRF. These messages can arrive on different interfaces (for example, Gx and Rx) and may be identified by different elements such as IMSI and IP address.

Solution
The DA, providing the 3GPP Diameter routing agent (DRA) proxy function, supports static binding or dynamic load sharing across PCRFs when IP-CAN sessions are first established. The DA ensures that subsequent messages over the Gx, S9, Gxx, or Rx reference points are sent to the same PCRF. Additionally, the DA extends this functionality across multiple DAs in Operator Fs network, which communicate with each other to act like a single, logical DRA.

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent
PCRF Region1 P-CSCF Rx
Diameter Agent

PCRF Region1 P-CSCF


Diameter Agent

Rx
Diameter Agent

PGW/HSGW

Gx.Gxx

DRA PGW/HSGW DRMA

Gx.Gxx

DRA Diameter Edge Agent IPX


Diameter Agent

DRMA Gx.Gxx PGW/HSGW


Diameter Agent

Gx.Gxx PGW/HSGW
Diameter Agent

Rx P-CSCF Region 2

DRA PCRF P-CSCF Region 2

Rx

DRA PCRF

To/From Other Networks

The SGSNs and SGs, as Diameter clients, must support load distribution and failover for Diameter messages toward the charging servers.

Figure 6. PCRF Binding

Benefits
Enables PCRF scalability Solves network-wide PCRF binding problem

Use Case 6: Charging Proxy


Problem
Operator G has deployed the Rf Diameter interface for offline charging. The charging trigger function, which resides in a number of network elements in Operator Gs network, such as GGSNs and signaling gateways (SGs), is directly connected to offline charging systems. As the network grows, Operator G is finding the mesh-like architecture created by the direct connections between the elements increasingly difficult to manage. The SGSNs and SGs, as Diameter clients, must support load distribution and failover for Diameter messages toward the charging servers. Operator G must independently test the same failover models on each client type it adds to the network, a costly approach that delays time to market.

Solution
Acting as an offline charging proxy, the DA handles message routing between the charging clients and the OFCF. It provides load distribution and failover support between the clients and servers as well as topology hiding. The DA appears as a single charging server to the GGSNs or SGs and as a single charging trigger to the OFCFs. As a central Diameter mediation point, it enables the interworking of multivendor clients and servers.

Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent
Site 1 Site 2

Charging Proxy

Charging Proxy

PGW

GGSN

SGW

CSCF/TAS

CSCF/TAS

GGSN

PGW Rf

SGW

Figure 7. Offline Charging

Benefits
Reduces operation, administration and maintenance costs Enables efficient OFCF usage Improves network reliability, scalability and resilience

Summary
Operators are turning to all-IP networks like IMS and LTE to provide the bandwidth to support swelling data loads. However, if those networks are deployed without a separate Diameter signaling core, a host of challenges related to scalability, security, mobility management, and routing will arise as traffic loads escalate. Providers can overcome these challenges by leveraging the Diameter agents proxy, redirect, relay and translation capabilities. Consolidating these functions at the DA creates a core Diameter signaling layer that relieves endpoints of routing, traffic management and load balancing responsibilities. The resulting architecture provides the flexibility and scalability to support even the most data-intensive devices and applications.

About Tekelec
Tekelec connects people and devices to the mobile Internet. Our portfolios unique layer of network intelligence allows service providers to both manage and monetize the exponential growth in mobile web, video and applications traffic. Tekelec has more than 25 offices around the world serving customers in more than 100 countries. For more information, visit www.tekelec.com.

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Improving Performance of 3G, IMS, and LTE Networks with the Diameter Agent

Appendix: Acronyms Used in This Document


3GPP AAA CAGR CSCF DA DRA EPC GGSN HLR Third Generation Partnership Project Authentication, Authorization and Accounting Compound Annual Growth Rate Call Session Control Function Diameter Agent Diameter Routing Agent Evolved Packet Core Gateway GPRS Support Nodes Home Location Register

HSGW HRPD Serving Gateways HSS IMS IOT IP Home Subscriber Server IP Multimedia Subsystem Interoperability Testing Internet Protocol

IP-CAN IP Connectivity Access Network KPI LTE MME NMS OCS OFCF PCRF QoE QoS SCTP SG SLF SS7 TCP Key Performance Indicator Long Term Evolution Mobility Management Entity Network Management System Online Charging System Offline Charging Function Policy and Charging Rule Function Quality of Experience Quality of Service Stream Control Transmission Protocol Signaling Gateway Subscription Locator Function Signaling System 7 Transmission Control Part

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Tekelec has more than 300 customers in more than 100 countries. For information on our worldwide offices, visit the Tekelec website at www.tekelec.com/offices. This document is for informational purposes only, and Tekelec reserves the right to change any aspect of the products, features or functionality described in this document without notice. Please contact Tekelec for additional information and updates. Solutions and examples are provided for illustration only. Actual implementation of these solutions may vary based on individual needs and circumstances. 2012 Tekelec. All rights reserved. TEKELEC, EAGLE, TekServer, G-Flex, G-Port, and CAMIANT are registered trademarks of Tekelec. The Tekelec logo, A-Port, EAGLE 5 ISS, V-Flex, ngHLR, Diameter Signaling Router (DSR), BLUESLICE, and Subscriber Data Server (SDS) are trademarks of Tekelec. Other product names used herein are for identification purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective companies.

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