Vendor Network Architectures�Part XVIII: Nokia

When they hear the name Nokia, most folks first think of cellular telephones. Without a doubt, the Finnish conglomerate knows how to crank out those products—in 2004, it manufactured 207.7 million phones, the equivalent of 6.5 phones per second. During the summer of 2005, they sold their one billionth mobile phone, a Nokia 1100, delivered to a customer in Nigeria. Based in Helsinki, Finland, the company’s roots date back to 1865, when founder Fredrik Idestam started a wood pulp mill, with a factory by the Nokia River. Other industries followed in the early 1900s, including the Finnish Rubber Works, established in 1917, which produced the first passenger car tire with a summer tread in 1933, and a wire and cable manufacturing facility.

The cable firm produced much of the cable that was used to build the electrical and telephone networks through Finland in the 1930s, and also supplied a significant amount of cable to the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, coaxial cable products were added, opening the door for business in the growing radio and television industries. In the 1960s, computer research and manufacturing were added, and the Finnish Rubber Works and the Finnish Cable Works were merged with Nokia Ab, a forestry and power generation company. In 1963, the Finnish Army issued a tender for portable military phones, which ushered in an era of telecommunications research and development activities. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nokia expanded into radio telephones, technical control and monitoring systems, modems, digital transmission systems, and other communications equipment. By the mid 1970s, Nokia was producing digital telephone exchanges, had purchased television factories in Central Europe, and was expanding into consumer electronics.

The company’s primary focus turned to telecommunications in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, Nokia had delivered GSM cellular networks to operators in over 90 countries. A North American presence was established when Nokia partnered with Tandy Radio Shack in 1983 to manufacture and distribute pagers, and later established a mobile telephone manufacturing facility in Texas in 1992. Nokia purchased Tandy in 1994. By that time, Nokia had established two major business areas—telecommunications (now called Nokia Networks) and mobile phones—and now claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones and of one of the leading manufacturers of mobile, fixed, and IP networks.

Nokia’s next generation switching product is named the MSC [Mobile Switching Center] Server System (MSS for short), which provides a common circuit-switched core for both GSM/EDGE and WCDMA mobile networks. The system consists of two elements: the MSC Server which handles the call-control and signaling functions, and the Multimedia Gateway which provides the switching functions and carries the actual traffic. The MSC Server controls the Gateway using the H.248/MEGACO protocol, and also supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for connections to IP multimedia core elements and other SIP-compatible devices.

The MSS is compliant with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, which is an effort by a number of standards bodies to develop GSM-compliant networks supporting IP multimedia voice calls (see This compliance allows VoIP to be implemented in a mobile environment, without the limitations of vendor-proprietary solutions, while also interworking with existing network infrastructures, including IP, TDM, and ATM networks.

The Nokia MSC Server System interconnects voice calls using SIP between existing circuit-switched networks and the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) specified by the 3GPP standards. In a nutshell, IMS provides mechanisms to provide cellular telephone users with access to Internet applications. (See earlier tutorials IP Multimedia Subsystem and IP Multimedia Subsystem functions for details on IMS.) Nokia’s strength in cellular technology is evident in this area, as they include an integrated voice compression feature that is compatible with all transmission technologies (TDM, IP, and ATM), plus a voice quality optimization technique called Transcoder Free Operation, which further optimizes transmission capacity requirements. The MSC is based upon Nokia’s DX 200 switching platform, which has been deployed to customer locations since 1999. Nokia presently claims 80 customer implementations of the MSC Server System, deployed in over 30 GSM and WCDMA networks throughout South America, Europe, Asia, and the Far East.

Further details on the Nokia architecture and products can be found at Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 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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