SS7 and BB King
Don’t get the interconnection blues. Get the right interconnection agreement with your local exchange carrier. Upgrade your paging terminal to establish SS7 capacity, if that’s what you want. Otherwise, protect your right to maintain multifrequency (MF) signaling.
As B.B. King would belt if he had gone into paging rather than entertainment: “Got the low-down interconnection blu-u-es.” wails the guitar known as Lucille. The riffs would bang off the strings like high-speed digitized data, tripping across a tandem switch; and the King, a.k.a. B.B., would search for a rhyming couplet that speaks to the soul of a trunk signaling protocol.
For those who have chosen paging over playing the blues, the question of whether to adopt SS7 interconnection has plunged them into the muddy waters of dealing with the local exchange carrier’s (LEC) newest agenda to force touted upgrades on paging companies. The first test to determine whether a paging carrier is ready to deal with the LEC’s request for the new interconnection method is to ask if the carrier can spell SS7. If it can get it right on the first try, we’re rockin’.
But a number of carriers that are well qualified in the wireless world wouldn’t know an SS7 if it were on the blue unitard of a superhero. They have a vague idea that SS7 is some telephone company digital trunk signaling protocol. But what that protocol means to them is wholly unknown. And although SS7 is used for many two-way wireless offerings, it has been slow to be adopted by the paging industry.
The situation that’s causing paging companies to begin to migrate from older interconnection methodologies to SS7 is a change in the law. In 1996, Congress changed the way LECs and paging carriers would treat the termination of traffic from the LECs to the carriers’ terminals. Congress’ change in the important relationship of debtor/creditor, between the LEC and the paging carrier, simultaneously altered the status of terminals and, in effect, turned them into central office switches. Since the advent of this watershed event, carriers are slowly looking at their connectivity and deciding whether it is time for a hardware change.
The multifrequency (MF) signaling used on most paging trunks is a 30-year-old technology. And as with all technology, intelligent operators have to decide whether an investment in new technology is appropriate. One could do as Blind Lemon Jefferson does, and just look the other way, but there are times when a smart operator considers his options.
Enter SS7, a.k.a. Signaling System 7, the cool, new form of connectivity that has stepped into the spotlight like Memphis Millie cranking it up to shake it down. Actually, SS7 has been around for quite some time by telecom standards. The telephone companies came up with it as a way of connecting all the dots in the wireline infrastructure, for the specific reason that they were trying to make more money. SS7 was designed to deliver higher efficiency in operation, while providing the trackability necessary to determine where, when and how the new services coming into the market were being used.
SS7 is essentially an intelligent, high-speed, packet data network. Common Channel Signaling/Signaling System 7 was first introduced in 1987 and is used to transmit call setup and network control information for calls on the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The configuration consists of two physically separate 64kbps data circuits, called A-links. The A-links connect to a mated pair of signaling transfer points (STPs). The redundant STPs perform message routing functions and provide information for the routing of messages between end offices.
The SS7 network exchanges a data message, the initial address message (IAM), between the originating end office and the terminating end office for each call prior to setting up a voice path. The IAM includes the called number, the originating number, forwarding and portability information, and other call parameters. This type of interconnection is generally referred to as Type S, as defined by Telcordia Technologies, TR-NPL-000145 technical reference. When used in conjunction with a service control point (SCP), it is the backbone for the Advanced Intelligent Network that provides most of the special and enhanced calling services available in the marketplace.
SS7 is the vehicle that allows such things as caller ID, “selective call forwarding,” “portable” 800 numbers, “follow me” services and a host of lesser-known but sometimes useful services. It will easily support local number portability and other “exotic” new features of the telephone network. The cellular and PCS carriers use their customized version of this technology to allow roaming, prepaid and other innovative services among competing companies. When you hook into the SS7 network, you are connected in milliseconds to every other switch and database in the PSTN.
So, what you’re buying is the capability to have the SS7 interface cards work within your terminal, assuming your terminal has the internal software to do the job. Some of the LECs have attempted to put themselves forward as the arbiter of what hardware is acceptable. However, these attempts appear to be overreaching, substituting their dictates for the authority of the FCC under Part 68 of the rules. Perhaps the greatest reason for using new equipment is that older equipment simply cannot handle the data speed for SS7 connection.
To establish SS7 capacity, you will have to upgrade your terminal, and that costs dough. Even the staunchest leadbelly might wince at the thought of paying for new terminal equipment. But if you are planning on looking at the possible advantages, now is the time. The world of interconnection, both the ways and the means, has come into the arena, backed by new laws and new ways of looking at things.
The new way of looking at paging is to see what ancillary services can be delivered using the same spectrum inventory and the same customer base, while offering additional serv-ices. Most paging systems offer voice mail, and many systems offer call forwarding of a kind, but to offer the entire panopoly of serv-ices, one may need to consider upgrading the terminal and the signaling protocol, too. This upgrade opens the door to greater competitiveness and the keeping up with the Joneses (or Bessie Smiths) in the future of paging.
One thing to remember, however, is that SS7 connection is not mandatory. If you do not want to spend the money, or simply don’t have it, then take a pass. Don’t let the LECs tell you that it’s mandatory. We can’t find any legal support for such a demand. Therefore, negotiate an interconnection agreement that recognizes your right to maintain MF signaling until further notice. However, if you’re ready for an upgrade, you might want to begin exploring terminal technology for this purpose. There might be a product that’s cheaper than a programmable switch to get the benefits of SS7.
In the meantime, kick back and slap on your shades, while you swig a little whiskey or gin, and keep cool as you move forward in the world of interconnection, ’cause it ain’t no thing.
Woke up this morning. My terminals is connectin’ Those pages are passin’ But has I been perfectin’
My woman said it ain’t heaven Without that new SS7 Is my position one where I gots to lo-o-o-ose ‘Cause I got them low-down, interconnection blu-u-es!
Sing it one more time.