USA: 4G network crashes are extraordinarily painful and costly events for any mobile network operator. Much of the problem is attributed to a “signaling storm” and Diameter Routing is pitched as a cure-all for almost any 4G network instability. “A network outage at a top tier operator could put $300 million of revenue at risk,” says Joe Hoffman, principal analyst at ABI Research. “Most of the problems to date are growing pains of 4G, and Diameter Routing mitigates a lot of risk.”
ABI’s research report “Control Plane Signaling, Scalability, and Diameter Challenges” finds “Signaling Storms” are caused by one-off events, where an element node is presented with an unexpected condition and may lurch into a chaotic state of retry and resend. Diameter is the language of the 3GPP 4G control plane, and even an ordinary perturbation can get out of control and cascade into a network crash because of Diameter signals flooding the network.
“Diameter Signal Routers serve as the traffic cop of the 4G control plane,” continues Hoffman, “and disorderly conduct is quickly squelched.” But there are other network engineering practices to consider in addition to Diameter Routing. Since Diameter Signaling is critical for the entire network, operators will do well to make it bulletproof as each incrementally evolve its networks to 4G.
Leading independent vendors have captured initial market share, as Diameter Signaling has been under the radar of the major RAN/EPC vendors. As operators step up efforts to monetize 4G investments, Diameter usage spreads to policy and charging. Diameter Signaling is recognized as a critical control point, and the big iron vendors are now heating up the race.