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Media gateways set challenges for developers

Posted: 26 Dec 0200     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:media gateway  DSP  VoIP  SoC 

Awad: DSP and gateway vendors must adopt a new business model that meets new network requirements.

Media gateway developers, manufacturers and service providers have to deal with the daunting challenge of looking for ways to lower cost and speed time-to-market as consumers demand for more advanced applications at an unprecedented pace. This challenge is most evident in digital signal processor (DSP) development where cost, time-to-market and shelf life are the mantra to usher media gateways into the future.

Media gateway vendors are continuously challenged by new network requirements that demand advanced voice signal processing, video support and more stringent quality metrics, while DSP vendors must demonstrate a broad experience in both voice and video processing in order to deliver on the promise of better quality.

Initially, media gateways based on industry standards were designed using generic DSPs for a specific purpose—Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

As the market grew, DSP vendors began to provide system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions that included all the necessary hardware to perform TDM-to-IP (time-division multiplexing to IP) or IP-to-IP conversion. This often involves having the right balance of performance-to-power consumption and the appropriate physical input/output (I/O) interfaces.

Standards are important to ensure interoperability between systems and to help drive down cost by offering a common language between vendors and developers.

The large number of standards for voice and video codecs, for example, is the main "raison d'être" of media gateways. Media gateways serve as the universal translators between many of these different standards, and therefore, as new standards are developed and deployed, the gateways must also evolve and provide the platform for new and emerging technologies and applications. This accelerated technology development has caused a shift in the way media gateway and DSP engine developers prepare for the future.

VoIP is not just VoIP anymore
About eight years ago, the industry began to see the emergence of complete media gateway products, offering both hardware and firmware components, which enabled original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to focus on upper-layer application software. These products have matured over the past decade to a point where the underlying DSP technology has stabilised and the basic feature set is well understood.

While the basic TDM-to-IP media gateway market has matured, a slew of new requirements—to support not only pristine quality in VoIP but also emerging applications—have appeared. The emergence of session border controllers (SBCs), fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and video communications, as examples, have created specific design challenges.

After reaching a critical mass of VoIP subscribers, many network providers, thanks to SBCs, can connect their networks to that of their competitors directly, without bridging back to TDM anymore. SBCs are also used to interface with wireless networks, serving as converters between these IP-only networks. With TDM out of the way, the focus is now on obtaining the best voice quality in the packet-only domain.

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