Monitoring Signaling Traffic

Monitoring Signaling Traffic

Many LTE operators may be missing out on some of the greatest benefits performance monitoring has to offer.

Monitoring signaling traffic – the communication between the user and the network, as well as the connection between different devices on the network – is beneficial for operators, as it allows a deeper insight into the behavior of users in the network.

Operators can monitor traffic performance from devices like SGWs, PGWs and MMEs, but they can also monitor the behavior of users by monitoring Diameter traffic. This data is collected from the core of the LTE infrastructure, which transports user sessions from the RAN to the actual applications.

LTE operators have commonly used NetFlow – a network protocol that collects IP flows and protocol use data. This allows carriers to see the IP conversations traversing the infrastructure.

Operators may only be monitoring the link between routers, which provides limited visibility about what the user is actually doing. Many, for example, are only monitoring how much traffic is exiting the Network toward different roaming networks.

By monitoring Diameter, which provides real-time session authentication, authorization and accounting capabilities, LTE providers are now equipped with a more granular, detailed view of how user sessions traverse the network.

At any given time, countless users are accessing an LTE network. All of these users are creating sessions as they do a variety of different things on the network. Users will be creating multiple sessions from their handset, be it browsing the Internet or making a phone call or sending an SMS.

From the user perspective, this is transparent. But for the operator, this is very important to understand, even at times where user handsets are on standby, but continuously maintaining their connection to the network.

Monitoring user sessions with Diameter allows carriers to see what types of services are most heavily used and if they need to change the QoS profiles or plan the network capacity differently for some of these services for a variety of reasons.

With this accurate data showing operators the number of sessions active on their network at any time, those looking at the data will see useful information that they can use for service assurance, capacity planning or continuous service improvement.

With this improved data, operators can also apply analytics and principals to identify what’s going on in the network when sessions rise or drop below a certain level, identify what’s normal and what’s not, and prepare for when anomalous conditions occur. This, of course, helps alert operators to outages and overages faster.

LTE operators care that each of their customers are happy. But LTE operators are also immediately responsible, for instance, when 100,000 similar sessions suddenly vanish or, if an operator’s total signaling traffic was meant to be 5 Megabits per second and, all of the sudden, the provider has half of that number.

Operators can use that data to identify if and when something is happening that needs attention before customers rush to call their customer care centers. And, combined with other data that is collected from LTE core devices – for example, interface traffic metrics from the PGW SGi interface outbound – it provides a better picture of the network utilization per customer.

Many operators don’t utilize this type of monitoring, either because they don’t know it can be done or they are unaware that it can help with both issue resolution and capacity planning.

Here are three main reasons why LTE operators should consider adding signaling traffic monitoring to their agenda:

  • It guarantees a better approach to continuous service delivery.
  • It gives better operational insight into identifying what’s normal and what’s not.
  • It helps assure the resources of the network and the services that the network carries.