Signaling System Number 7 (SS7)

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Signaling System Number 7 (SS7) is a set of telephony signaling protocols which are used to set up most of the world's public switched telephone network telephone calls. The main purpose is to set up and tear down telephone calls. Other uses include number translation, prepaid billing mechanisms, short message service (SMS), and a variety of other mass market services. It is usually abbreviated as Signaling System No. 7, Signaling System #7, or just SS7. In North America it is often referred to as CCSS7, an acronym for "Common Channel Signaling System 7".
In some European countries, specifically the United Kingdom, it is sometimes called C7 (CCITT number 7) and is also known as number 7 and CCIS7. (ITU-T was formerly known as CCITT.) There is only one international SS7 protocol defined by ITU-T in its Q.700-series recommendations.There are however, many national variants of the SS7 protocols. Most national variants are based on two widely deployed national variants as standardized by ANSI and ETSI, which are in turn based on the international protocol defined by ITU-T. Each national variant has its own unique characteristics. Some national variants with rather striking characteristics are the China (PRC) and Japan (TTC) national variants.

SS7 protocols

The SS7 protocol stack borrows partially from the OSI Model of a packetized digital protocol stack. OSI layers 1 to 3 are provided by the Message Transfer Part (MTP) and the Signalling Connection Control Part (SCCP) of the SS7 protocol (together referred to as the Network Service Part (NSP)); for circuit related signalling, such as the Telephone User Part (TUP) or the ISDN User Part (ISUP), the User Part provides layer 7. Currently there are no protocol components that provide OSI layers 4 through 6. The Transaction Capabilities Application Part (TCAP) is the primary SCCP User in the Core Network, using SCCP in connectionless mode. SCCP in connection oriented mode provides the transport layer for air interface protocols such as BSSAP and RANAP. TCAP provides transaction capabilities to its Users (TC-Users), such as the Mobile Application Part, the Intelligent Network Application Part and the CAMEL Application Part.

The MTP covers a portion of the functions of the OSI network layer including: network interface, information transfer, message handling and routing to the higher levels. SCCP is at functional Level 4. Together with MTP Level 3 it is called the Network Service Part (NSP). SCCP completes the functions of the OSI network layer: end-to-end addressing and routing, connectionless messages (UDTs), and management services for users of the Network Service Part (NSP).TUP is a link-by-link signaling system used to connect calls. ISUP is the key user part, providing a circuit-based protocol to establish, maintain, and end the connections for calls. TCAP is used to create database queries and invoke advanced network functionality, or links to Intelligent Network Application Part (INAP) for intelligent networks, or Mobile Application Part (MAP) for mobile services.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has also defined level 2, 3, and 4 protocols that are compatible with SS7 MTP2 (M2UA and M2PA) MTP3 (M3UA) and SCCP (SUA), but use an SCTP transport mechanism. This suite of protocols is called SIGTRAN.

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