Service providers are presently seeking to increase their profits through low cost deployment of voice and leased line services over more efficient Ethernet and IP infrastructures. At the same time enterprises are looking for ways to take advantage of the promise of convergence by integrating their voice and data networks while preserving their investment in traditional PBX and TDM equipment. The voice-over-IP (VoIP) approach is maturing, but its deployment requires a certain level of investment in new network infrastructure and/or customer premises equipment (CPE).
TDM-over-IP (TDMoIP) is a technology that enables voice and leased-line services such as video and data to be offered inexpensively over service provider IP networks while retaining the reliability and quality of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). In this article, we'll discuss the technical challenges inherent in transporting TDM circuits over IP networks, how TDMoIP technology meets those challenges, and the standards shaping TDMoIP and related technologies.
Challenges of Transporting TDM
Conventional TDM networks are highly deterministic. A source device transmits one or more octets to a destination device via a dedicated-bandwidth channel every 125 μs. The circuit delay through a TDM network is predictably low and constant throughout the life of a connection. Timing is delivered along with the data, and the permitted variability (jitter and wander) of TDM clocks is tightly defined. In addition, the infrastructure supports a rich set of user features via a vast set of signaling protocols.
Packet-switched networks (PSNs), such as IP/multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) systems, are more efficient than TDM networks due to bandwidth sharing. However, this sharing leads to PSNs being inherently non-deterministic.
Packets entering and transiting the network must compete for bandwidth and switch/router ports, leading to packet delay variation (PDV) and lost packets. A source device may inject packets into the network at regular intervals, but the network offers no guarantee that these packets will arrive at the destination edge device spaced at the same intervals, in the same order, or even that they will arrive at all.
In addition, IP networks were designed for transport of arbitrary data. Thus, TDM-related signaling is not supported.
There are two main ways that designers are trying to integrate TDM services into IP-based networks. On one hand, designers can completely replace the TDM network and end-user equipment with a new infrastructure that provides innovative mechanisms for voice transport and signaling. The other approach leaves the end-user equipment and protocols intact, tunneling TDM data through the packet network.
In the end, this second approach could provide an easier and most cost-effective migration path for carriers and equipment vendors. With that in mind, let's dive into how TDMoIP works.
Diving into TDMoIP
TDMoIP emulates T1, E1, T3, E3, and N*64K links by adapting and encapsulating the TDM traffic at the network ingress. Adaptation denotes mechanisms that modify the payload to enable its proper restoration at the PSN egress. By using proper adaptation, the TDM signaling and timing can be recovered, and a certain amount of packet loss can be accommodated.
Encapsulation signifies placing the adapted payload into packets of the format required by the underlying PSN technology. TDMoIP encapsulations are presently defined for user datagram protocol (UDP)/IP, MPLS, and Layer 2 tunneling protocol (L2TP)/IP networks, and even pure Ethernet can be utilized with minimal adjustments. Let's take a closer look at adaptation and encapsulation.