IMS and 5G

Maybe you have already heard about some features as Dynamical Network Slicing, CloudRAN, Network-as-a-Services, …  Some basic 5G principals we’ll briefly discussed also in this post. However my question is: What will be the change from the real-time communication point of view? What will be the 5G calling look like? Is the IMS (IP Multimedia Services, don’t confuse with International Microwave Symposium) to stay in the operators’ networks?

5G trial deployments – map, © GSMA Intelligence 2017

Seems that at the first stage the change will be less dramatic than when we introduced 4G. 4G was in many ways a revolution, whereas 5G is “only” an evolution. In fact 4G and 5G, at least in the beginning, will coexist and complement one each other. Still 5G will have a big impact on our existing technologies and the way we work with telecommunication networks.

5GS + EPC + IMS

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VoLTE Flows and CS Network

Before I’ll finish a new post about 5G I decided to take a break and create a presentation which would complement VoLTE Basic Flows.

Btw. I can’t find the option on slideshare which would allow to update the material .. does anyone know??

News: Trends in Telco

I like statistics. Sometimes it can be misleading or data can be hard to interpret. But it can help us when we struggle to see the forest for the trees.

The last two years the IP-based mobile technologies were booming. If you are working with 4G networks you know it well. This year however the number of new deployments decreased significantly (Sep 2017, source GSMA).

IP Deployments Sep-17

Well, there can be many reasons for that. Rather than guessing, let’s have a fun and take a look on how popular are some telco topics on Google in the last 3 years.

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OTT and VoLTE Calls

Over and over again I can hear:

Why we need VoLTE, when I can use Skype or Whatsapp (for free)?

Or also:

What is the difference between native (volte) and non-native client?

Of course, everyone likes applications for free. And it’s a great thing we can use our facebook, skype or google accounts practically on any device and from anywhere. Maybe it’s a bit annoying that in order to communicate using such an Over-The-Top (OTT) application, we have to install the same applications as all our buddies.

By OTT we understand an application for a real-time communication using audio, video, and other media over the Internet without the involvement of a mobile operators’ IMS network. But when it comes to mobility we can’t get along without the operators’ infrastructure completely, we still need them to provide us with the internet connectivity.

ott

OTT and LTE

 Skype and other icons are used only for illustration.

There are many aspects and technical details which can’t be covered in this short article. Please, take this post as a brief introduction into the matter.

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VoLTE Illustrated: Beginners Guide

VoLTE is a communication standard defined by GSMA and 3GPP organizations. They created plenty of documents, but these documents are not good when one is a beginner. Still it’s no rocket science. Perhaps it is because the documents don’t contain more good pictures explaining the basic ideas. I believe if the standards would be written as comic books, they’d have much broader audience 🙂

What is VoLTE?

4G

4G calling

  • VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE. LTE is a new standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones.
  • Sometimes we can see also ViLTE, which means Video over LTE.

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How to read tcpdump – Registration

In telco tracing has always been very important. It helps us to understand the flows, the content and – sure – to find bugs. SS7 used to be much more strict and we didn’t need to go in the detail traces that often. The flow and a few fields was usually enough. With SIP and SDP it is a different story. SIP is a very flexible protocol. That means powerful but also complex and sometimes quite confusing.

Let’s take a look on IMS Registration. I’m sure you remember the idea behind from a previous posts about Registration and 3rd party registration and at least the basic flow:

 

IMS Registration

IMS Registration

The registration flow is very important – in practice if something goes wrong, it is most probably registration. Once is a subscriber correctly registered,  the other flows (call, sms, fileshare) usually works fine.

There are many documents describing the message flow and important values. For VoLTE I’d recommend to go through VoLTE Service Description and Implementation Guide or A Definitive Guide to Successful Deployments. Would you have any doubts about a particular header please refer to http://www.iana.org/assignments/sip-parameters/sip-parameters.xhtml. Now let’s go through the particular messages.

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Ut interface – what is it for?

VoLTE and RCS support plenty of services – e.g. Call Forwarding, Call Barring or Presence. Some of these services can’t be pre-configured for the subscribers as each of them wants to provision his/her own forwarding/barred numbers or maybe doesn’t want to use the functionality at all. That means we need to have a way how to do a self-provisioning. In IMS we have a dedicated interface and network functionalities which allow to modify the setting of Supplementary Services and Presence Information directly from client (UE) via http/XCAP protocol. For VoLTE this is defined in the GSMA IR.92 and 3GPP TS 24.623, TS 24.423 and 3GPP TS 33.222. GSMA IR.92 directly says:

For supplementary service configuration, the UE and IMS core network must support XCAP at the Ut reference point as defined in 3GPP TS 24.623.

Wow – this is very important! There is not only the SIP/RTP between UE and IMS network but there can be also http (xcap)! Unlike SIP, HTTP is designed as a general-purpose data transport protocol. The purpose of SIP is mainly to create, modify, or terminate multimedia sessions. But sometimes we want to work with other types of data (e.g. configuration data, presence data, ..) which could easily overwhelm intermediate SIP proxies. HTTP is a good choice how to solve this issue.

What is the network architecture then?

Ut interface, ut volte

Ut Reference Point

As we can see the http traffic does’t go through the SBC but through an Authentication Proxy (AP) instead. Its main purpose is to authenticate user requests. It is also used to separate the authentication procedure and the Application Server (AS) specific logic (e.g. Supplementary Service provisioning) to different network entities.

(In case of presence and OMA XDMS architecture we talk about so-called Aggregation Proxy, which is described in its own post.)

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