Vendor Network Architectures�Part II: Marconi

The heritage of Marconi Corporation plc dates back to 1894, when Guglielmo Marconi, age 20, and the son of an Italian father and Irish mother, began his experimentation into the works of Heinrich Hertz. Within a few years, he had improved on Hertz’ apparatus for the transmission of electromagnetic waves through free space for long distance communication. Assisted by his British cousin, he was granted a patent in 1896 for a system of telegraphy using Hertzian waves, and the next year, registered his company as the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company, setting up his headquarters outside of London.

Further experiments ensued, with increasing transmission distances, culminating in the first Transatlantic transmission in 1901. In the next few years, his systems were adopted within the shipping industry, with distress calls from the Marconi wireless system aboard the S.S. Titanic in 1912 credited with saving over 700 lives from that terrible tragedy. Further work in broadcast radio, television and radar systems added to Marconi’s reputation as a true pioneer of modern communications. Through a series of mergers and name changes, Marconi’s original company is now known as Marconi Corporation plc, with one of the companies acquired along the way being U.S.-based FORE Systems, known for their pioneering work in ATM switches.

With its history as a player in the global communications field, it should come as no surprise that Marconi targets the large customer market, including public network operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and large government, corporate, utility provider, and educational organizations. Marconi’s core business includes products in broadband routing and switching, microwave radio, optical networks, network management, and outside plant and power equipment.

Marconi’s next generation of switching products is included in their Impact portfolio, which includes five elements:

  • IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and Softswitch platforms at the core
  • a technology-independent access network, providing access to xDSL, POTS, VoIP, GSM, Wi-Fi, and other networks
  • a common management environment
  • a common application environment

The portfolio adds applications and products from Marconi business partners, including Mitel” style=, Sonus Networks, Newport Networks, and other vendors. This common hardware platform, with its single management solution, thus includes IMS and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) multimedia services, business services for large enterprises, broadband voice services, plus Class 4 and Class 5 telephony services.

The core of the system is the Impact SoftSwitch XCD5000 series and the Impact IMS Session Controller XCD6000 series, with associated gateways and access control. The Softswitch, or call server, includes both Call Agent and Signalling Controller functions. It is intended for PSTN replacement, and can handle 1 million users with traffic up to 8.5 million busy hour call attempts (BHCA). Support for the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), H.323, Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP) and H.248 protocols is included.
The IMS Session Controller includes the three Call/Session Control Functions (CSCF) the Proxy CSCF, Interrogating CSCF and Serving CSCF, that are key functions of IMS, and were examined in a previous tutorial. One of the strong features of this architecture is that the SoftSwitch is software upgradeable to the IMS Session Controller, as they run on the same hardware, and with the same management platform, yielding greater flexibility in network deployment.

Other subsystems include the Session Border Controller which ensures the operator network is secure from fraud and malicious attacks. The network-aware Bandwidth Manager delivers a dynamic view of available bandwidth in the network and controls access to the network, to support services such as VoIP, Video on Demand (VoD), gaming, pay-per-view, and others. The system scales from 50,000 users per processor to one million per cabinet, and a maximum of 130 million subscribers.

Further details on the Marconi architecture and products can be found at Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ softswitch architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2005 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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