L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. and router vendor Juniper Networks Inc. have teamed up to create a router designed to help mobile operators migrate from traditional cellular voice and dial-up data services to emerging higher speed data offerings.
Carriers with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks are banking on packet-based data services such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) to deliver more Internet-based content to their customers and add more service charges to their coffers. Where they are well received, mobile Internet services will require large high-capacity networks that can handle traffic from GPRS and WCDMA networks.
Introduced Tuesday at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, the AXB 250 06 GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node) is based on Juniper's M20 router hardware and Ericsson's GGSN software and developed by Boston-based joint venture EJN Mobile IP Inc. It is designed to fit between the carrier's mobile network and an external data network, setting up mobile customers' data sessions and routing the packets they send and receive, according to Mike Capuano, director of product marketing at Juniper. In addition to the Internet, it can link mobile users to corporate VPNs (virtual private networks), Capuano said.
The GGSN also can transport circuit-switched voice calls across an IP network, using standard QoS (quality of service) mechanisms to make sure the time-sensitive voice packets make it across the network in a timely fashion.
Many service providers that have built GPRS systems use ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) or Frame Relay networks to carry data and voice across a backbone network, Capuano said. Juniper is focused on building all-IP infrastructures, which may offer greater simplicity and lower overall cost in the long run.
Juniper and Ericsson formed EJN in 2000 to develop devices that form a bridge between mobile phone systems and IP data networks. The router introduced Tuesday, the joint venture's first shipping product, builds upon Juniper's existing M20 core router with specialized interface modules developed by Juniper and GGSN software from Ericsson.
The router can support as many as 450,000 simultaneous user sessions, based on Juniper's projections of how customers will be using mobile data networks a year or two from now, Capuano said. Much of the traffic passing through the network will take the form of e-mail and messaging, Juniper believes, echoing predictions by many industry analysts.
The GGSN will be able to support the same number of users even if many of them are being authenticated for connection to a VPN, because the Juniper platform performs VPN functions in hardware rather than software, Capuano said.
Scalability is crucial for operators' service and business plans, he added.
"These guys want to install this GGSN and not have to take it out in a year and a half," Capuano said.
Hardware support in the Juniper platform for IPv6 (IP version 6) also will help carriers roll out and expand mobile data services, he said. Unlike the currently deployed IPv4, IPv6 allows for an almost unlimited number of unique Internet addresses. As more handheld devices become Internet clients, the supply of new IP addresses eventually may grow tight in some regions, vendors and analysts say.
"The end goal is, you want to have every device have its own IP address," Capuano said.
The AXB 250 06 GGSN is available now from Ericsson. It is in a commercial deployment in the network of at least one service provider in Europe, Rome-based Wind SpA, according to the companies. Ericsson doesn't typically make prices public for this type of product but will provide the information privately to interested service providers, a company spokeswoman said.