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Module Objectives

After completing the module, the student will be able to:

• Explain the need for signaling in telecommunication networks
• Describe ISO/OSI protocol model
• Use protocol analyzer (in practice) to open traces and show signaling
What is signaling
The importance of signaling
• Signaling is an important part of a telephone call.
• In the beginning signaling was just the common language used between
human operators in order to place and manage a voice call.
• Over the years, signaling methods were developed to properly send
automatic information on who the caller wants to call (the called party) and
who the caller is to the network (identification for billing).  

a nd sig ice a
e na nd
Voic aling lin
sign g
Signaling definition
• In telecommunication, signaling is
defined as the exchange of information
between involved points in the network
(switches or endpoints) that sets up,
controls, and terminates each
telephone call.
• Signaling is usually transferred from
one point to the other in separate,
dedicated channels.
Protocols, Architectures, Interfaces
• Signaling standards allow network
elements of different vendors to be
connected together.
• Standard = protocols.
• Protocols are escribed by
• For every telecommunication system
an architecture is defined. The
architecture shows the network
elements, their role and the
• Connections between network
elements are called interfaces.
• Each interface is a collection of
Frames, Messages, Procedures
• Every protocol has its own structure,
usually made of header, protocol Header Protocol data Footer
data and footer
• Every protocol is like a different
language with its own dictionary.
• Words in the dictionary are called
• A conversation is called procedure.
• Conversation can involve different
languages, i.e. procedures can use
messages from different protocols.
Course content
• Focus on BSS Network
• Chapter 01: Signaling Overview
• For every interface we will show • Chapter 02: A interface
• The list of protocols • Chapter 03: Abis interface
• The most important messages • Chapter 04: Air interface
• The most important procedures • Chapter 05: CS procedures and
• When possible troubleshooting cases
• Chapter 06: GPRS interfaces
• It is not troubleshooting course because we • Chapter 07: PS procedures and
don’t show how to solve problems. scenarios
• It does not cover the whole GPRSSIG because
we just describe the Gb interface. • Optional chapters: IP Monitoring, EDGE
GPRS, Handovers, DFCA, Other Features

Morning Afternoon
Day 1 Signalling overview A interface
Day 2 Abis interface Air CS procedures and scenarios
Day 3 GPRS Interfaces break PS procedures and scenarios
Day 3 GPRS Interfaces PS procedures and scenarios
What is protocol analyzer used for in
everyday maintenance?

Trouble Fault Multi

shooting Finding Vendor

De Diagnose
bugging Transmission

The ISO / OSI protocol stack model
The importance of the OSI model
• The OSI model divides the functions of a protocol
7. Application
into a series of layers.
• Each layer only uses the functions of the layer
6. Presentation
• Each layer only exports functionality to the layer
5. Session
• The group of these layers is known as a 'protocol
4. Transport
stack' or 'stack'.
• Exceptions to stacks are called ‘fast path’ and
3. Network
include aspects of several layers.

2. Data Link

1. Physical
Layer 1: Physical Layer
• The Physical layer defines all the electrical and
7. Application
physical specifications for devices. This includes the
layout of pins, voltages, radio signal and cable
specifications. Panels, repeaters, network adapters 6. Presentation
are physical-layer devices.
• The major functions and services performed by the 5. Session
physical layer are:
• Medium synchronization. 4. Transport
• Medium sharing.
• Modulation, or conversion. 3. Network
• In some cases Layer 1 is included in Layer 2 because
the logical link is sometimes strictly related to the 2. Data Link
way of transmitting data.
1. Physical
Layer 2: Data Link Layer 1/2
• The Data Link layer provides the functional and procedural
7. Application
means to transfer data between network entities.
• Functions of the data link layer:
• Framing. The data link layer divides the stream of bits 6. Presentation
received from the network layer into data units called frames.
• Physical addressing. If frames are to be distributed to 5. Session
different systems on the network, the data link layer adds a
header to the frame to define the physical address of the
sender (source address) and/or receiver (destination address) 4. Transport
of the frame. If the frame is intended for a system outside the
sender’s network, the receiver address is the address of the
device that connects one network to the next. 3. Network
• Flow Control. If the rate at which the data are absorbed by
the receiver is less than the rate produced in the sender, the
data link layer imposes a flow control mechanism to prevent 2. Data Link
overwhelming the receiver.
1. Physical
Layer 2: Data Link Layer 2/2
• Functions of the data link layer (cont.):
7. Application
• Error control. The data link layer adds reliability to the
physical layer by adding mechanisms to detect and
retransmit damaged or lost frames. Error control is normally 6. Presentation
achieved through a trailer to the end of the frame.
• Access Control. When two or more devices are connected to
the same link, data link layer protocols are necessary to 5. Session
determine which device has control over the link at any time.
• The data link layer is usually divided into two sublayers 4. Transport
• The MAC (Media Access Control) sublayer controls how a
computer on the network gains access to the data and
permission to transmit it. 3. Network
• The LLC (Logical Link Control) sublayer controls frame
synchronization, flow control and error checking. 2. Data Link

1. Physical
Layer 3: Network Layer
• The Network layer is responsible for the source-to-
7. Application
destination delivery of a packet possible across
multiple networks, adding a proper header.
6. Presentation
• Functions of the network layer:
• Logical addressing: usually independent from the
physical (hardware) address 5. Session

• Routing: i.e. finding the way to reach the destination.

• Internetworking 4. Transport

• A typical example is the IP (Internet Protocol)

3. Network

2. Data Link

1. Physical
Layer 4: Transport Layer 1/2
• The transport layer is responsible for process-to-
7. Application
process delivery of the entire message, that is from
software to software at the two ends of the
communication. 6. Presentation
• The functions of the transport layer are:
• Port or protocol addressing: computer or network 5. Session
elements often run several processes (running
programs) at the same time. Process-to-process 4. Transport
delivery means delivery from a specific process on one
computer to a specific process on the other.
3. Network
• Flow control: the transport layer performs a flow
control end to end. The data link layer performs flow
control across a single link. 2. Data Link
• Error control: the transport layer performs error
control end to end. The data link layer performs control 1. Physical
across a single link.
Layer 4: Transport Layer 2/2
• Functions of Transport Layer (cont.):
7. Application
• Segmentation and reassembly: a message is
divided into transmittable segments, each having a
sequence number. 6. Presentation
• Connection control: The transport layer can be
either connectionless or connection-oriented. 5. Session
• A connectionless transport layer treats each segment as
an independent packet and delivers it to the transport
4. Transport
layer at the destination machine.
• A connection-oriented transport layer makes a
connection with the transport layer at the destination 3. Network
machine first before delivering the packets.

2. Data Link

1. Physical
Layer 5: Session Layer
• The Session layer controls the dialogues (sessions)
7. Application
between computers.
• It establishes, manages and terminates the
6. Presentation
connections between the local and remote
5. Session
• It provides for either duplex or half-duplex operation
and establishes check pointing, update, termination,
and restart procedures. 4. Transport

• This layer is often removed or merged with Layer 4

or with Layer 7 3. Network

2. Data Link

1. Physical
Layer 6: Presentation Layer
• The presentation layer was designed to handle the
7. Application
syntax and semantics of the information exchanged
between the two systems.
• It was designed for data translation, encryption, 6. Presentation
decryption, and compression.
• The Presentation layer transforms data to provide a 5. Session
standard interface for the Application layer.
• MIME encoding, data compression, data encryption 4. Transport
and similar manipulation of the presentation is done at
this layer to present the data as a service or protocol 3. Network
developer sees fit.
• Examples: converting an EBCDIC-coded text file to an 2. Data Link
ASCII-coded file, or serializing objects and other data
structures into and out of XML.
1. Physical
• This layer is often removed or merged in Layer 7
Layer 7: Application Layer
• The Application layer is closest to the end user
7. Application
(human or automatic).
• It provides a means for the user to access
6. Presentation
information on the network through an application.
• This layer is the main interface for the user(s) to
5. Session
interact with the application and therefore the
4. Transport
• Some examples of application layer protocols include
Telnet, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Simple Mail
Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Hypertext Transfer 3. Network
Protocol (HTTP).
2. Data Link

1. Physical
The stack of layers
• The seven layers
were designed as a
stack of layers.
• Data flows from
user to user through
all the layers (if
• Every entity at the
same layer is
virtually connected
to the same layer at
the other end.
Network / User layers
• Layers from 1 to 3 are usually
referred to as
• network layers,
• sub-network layers, or
• media layers.
• Implementation of network layers
is usually hardware based
• Layers from 4 to 7 are referred to
• user part layers,
• application layers, or
• host layers.
• Implementation of application
layers is very often software based
Layer 5 to 7
• Layers 5 to 7 are usually represented and designed together because
often the application also defines new formats and different ways of
keeping track of sessions.
• That is the reason why the application layer is often represented near
the transport layer
• Every protocol has its own headers and footers (or trailers)
• From the application layer to the physical layer, many headers and
footers are added by every layer.

Header DATA Footer

Data units
• At every layer data units, or PDU
(protocol data units) assume a
different name:
• Data
• Segment
• Packet
• Frame
• Bits
The tool to look at signaling

NetHawk Protocol Analyzer

The need for a protocol analyzer
• Telecommunication devices are usually connected by E1 cables where data
flows in 32 timeslots at a speed of 64kbps each.
• In every timeslot flows user data or signaling. In some cases signaling links
can have higher (A or Gb) or lower speed (Abis).
• Even at the lowest bit rate (8kbps), the information that flows in a signaling
link is too much to be understood by a human being.
• The signaling flow is therefore decoded and presented by a protocol
• Protocol analyzers are computer software (usually) or computer
hardware that can intercept and log traffic passing over a digital network or
part of a network. As data streams travel back and forth over the network,
the analyzer captures each packet and eventually decodes and analyzes its
content according to the appropriate protocol or other specifications.
• Protocol analyzers are able to identify and show every message of every
protocol from the interface they are set up for, without interfering with the
actual transmission of the data.
• Nokia co-operates with another
Finnish company, vendor of protocol
analyzers: NetHawk.
• The NetHawk GSM Analyzer is an
effective and easy-to-use PC-based
protocol analyzer for real-time
monitoring and analysis of GSM,
GPRS and EDGE networks.
• Learning how to use NetHawk is the
best way to learn signaling for Nokia
customers because:
• The layout is similar to Nokia service
terminal extension for signaling.
• The software can be used freely in
off-line mode without the NetHawk
interface adapters.
How to start
• For on-line monitoring you need a
laptop equipped with a NetHawk N2 or
a desktop equipped with a NetHawk
NAP card.
• Cards should be connected to patch
panels (or DDF) with proprietary
cables. Extensions can easily
deteriorate the signal.
• Impedance of the card should match
the one of the monitored cable (75-
• Impedance is set to HIGH not to
disturb the communication. It is set to
LOW to divert signaling to the
interface only (simulation).
• Every card has its own HW id and SW
The software
• Both for on-line monitoring and for
off-line use, a software is needed.
• In case of on-line monitoring, the SW
id of the installed software should
match the SW id of the card in use.
• The Protocol Info tab shows the
specifications used to decode the
messages. These protocols should
match the one used in the network
element in order to look at signaling
closer to the real one.
User interface
• The user interface is
made of
• A menu bar
• A toolbar with
configurable buttons
• A monitoring window
• A status bar with
clickable indicators.
To work on-line
• The first thing to check when working
on-line is if the signal is good or not
(open the State Monitor window)
• If not check the cables and the HW
options of each connection.
• Monitoring should be the same as in
the N2 hardware card. HIGH is normal
• Interface mode should be E1 in Europe
• Condensed mode is not influent
• SPEC should be ITU-T in Europe
• Pointcode should be 14 in Europe
• 3GPP should be the same as in NE
• Increasing the AGC maximum value
can decrease the CRC warnings.
• AGC is one per NAP card and is
automatically set.
In any case
• Both for on-line and off-line
monitoring it is possible to specify
the detail shown per each layer.
• Both for on-line and off-line
monitoring it is possible to specify
which connection to monitor and
what protocol stack assume is
flowing through it.
Exercise 1
• Connect NetHawk to a DDF
Exercise 2
• Check HW options and line status
Exercise 3
• Configure protocol details and setup connections
• Save configuration to file
• Save history to file
Exercise 4
• Open a trace file and highlight just one message.