Media gateways (MGWs) have long been the workhorses of next-generation networks. But as service providers transition to all-IP networks, are media gateways keeping pace with the challenges they’re facing? 

Over the past four years, Infonetics estimates that service providers have spent more than $2.2 billion on media gateways alone, and they continue to invest (though admittedly in lower amounts) each year, as the transition to IP accelerates. The fact is that service providers are making money off their existing MGW infrastructures and thus are reluctant to rip them out. In many cases, however, their aging MGW infrastructures are reaching or have reached end-of-life, leaving companies in precarious situations.

Service providers are looking for investment protection for their mission-critical infrastructure and ways to protect their existing class four investment for functions such as TDM to IP interworking, TDM to SIP signaling, compression and optimization for high-cost connections, all while providing a path to the all-IP network. This combination of capabilities is the essence of the modern gateway. 

In a report late last year about trunk media gateway market size, Diane Myers of Infonetics noted that while session border controllers (SBCs) “are primed for the IP connectivity market, enhancements to traditional trunk media gateways have evolved to fill this role, particularly as they become upgraded for IMS networks.”

How is the modern gateway evolving?  With the penetration of over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp, the increased bandwidth available to mobile users and the demand for ever- improving user experience, high definition voice is becoming widely deployed. To support HD voice and the interworking of services, there’s a need for new codecs, such as AMR-WB and iLBC. Supporting these new codecs in the network then becomes a big challenge, and elements like SBCs can easily get overwhelmed with the processing power required to transcode between the various codecs.

Dialogic is responding to this transcoding dilemma. We’ve essentially set up our I-Gate® 4000 media gateways to become a “bump in the wire,” providing highly efficient transcoding and normalization of codecs, which can then offload the media processing burden from the SBCs so they can focus on securing the network. 

How do you think the modern gateway and SBCs are working together to address service providers’ NGN-to-IMS transition needs?  Weigh in by tweeting @Dialogic. @Dialogic.