Published on August 12th, 2021 | by Franklin Recio
As communication service providers (CSPs) continue to build out 5G networks, standards-based infrastructure is replacing the proprietary interfaces, formats, and protocols of previous technology generations. Dynamic cloud-native approaches based on DevOps practices packaging microservices in containers have replaced yesterday’s specialized, static equipment. In theory, virtualized and containerized network functions—standardized and built to traverse multiple networks and clouds—eliminate many problems of interoperability among network components from various providers in lawful intercept (LI) deployments.
While industry standards specify requirements that enable greater interoperability, those standards are necessarily open to interpretation by each network vendor that implements them, leaving potential integration challenges for LI deployments. At the same time, the traditionally small number of providers for telecommunications equipment has been dramatically expanded into a broader software ecosystem for the 5G world. Against that backdrop, regulatory requirements compel CSPs to seek assurances that their LI solutions will function across 5G’s more diverse multi-vendor environment.
As a result, a growing focus has arisen on testing and validating interoperability for LI functions among equipment from multiple vendors. SS8 helps enable this shift by working closely with leading providers to certify LI interoperability with their 5G network components. This work helps to streamline and maintain real-world implementations for both CSPs and law enforcement agencies (LEAs).
A Lifecycle-Driven Approach to Interoperability Testing and Certification
The focus on testing and validating interoperability between SS8 products and those of telecommunications network solution providers has the effect of improving the quality of network components. That factor has led to enthusiastic participation by ecosystem members, increasing the level of interoperability testing and pre-validation as well as fostering earlier initiation of the testing process within the solution development cycle.
Engagement typically begins by documenting the specifications for interoperability requirements and then developing appropriate test cases to validate that actual network behavior fulfills those requirements. SS8 and solution providers typically collaborate for several weeks to fine-tune the test cases, helping provide assurances that the testing plan is complete and effective.
The actual testing may be performed through remote connectivity or on-site in a lab operated by either SS8 or the vendor. In any case, connectivity must first be established for the testbed between SS8 tools (Xcipio, Intellego XT, and/or others) and the solution under test, which may require accommodations for firewalls, VPN, and other intermediary network elements. Testing across x1, x2, and x3 communication interfaces can then demonstrate how all of the network elements from all parties behave and interact.
With each successive test case, a more complete understanding develops about interoperability capabilities as well as challenges and shortcomings. By addressing the issues raised during the test process, solution providers are able to reduce risk to their customers, and SS8 is able to give assurances of the robustness of its lawful intelligence solutions in real-world deployments.
This predictability and pre-validation lead to more deterministic behavior by software throughout the network. As a direct result, CSPs reduce their risks associated with non-compliance with CALEA and other similar requirements. At the same time, both CSPs and LEAs gain the technology insights they need to address specific interoperability issues as they arise. As 5G deployments add an unprecedented range of component providers to telecommunication networks, this type of interoperability engineering has become more vital than ever to all concerned.
Enabling the Ecosystem with the Acceler8 Alliance Program
To ensure seamless deployments of lawful intelligence capabilities, SS8 operates the Acceler8 Alliance Program, a partnership framework for providers of network components. This joint approach to interoperability testing and engineering encompasses both the Xcipio real-time intercept and mediation platform implemented by CSPs and the Intellego XT query and analytics platform used by LEAs and intelligence agencies as they fuse together LI data with other sources to generate lawful intelligence.
Testing efforts within the program consider the latest standards for compliance, including CALEA, 3GPP, and ETSI. Areas of expertise across SS8 contribute to the breadth and depth of success achieved through the program. Partners that participate in Acceler8 gain access to SS8’s knowledge and expertise in the LI sphere. It expands the contributions those providers can make to their end customers, helping ensure their successful operations according to regulatory edicts by providing tested, proven, predictable solutions. In particular, SS8 expertise in applying interoperability testing processes and initiatives can dramatically reduce the effort required to deliver proven solutions.
Testing programs within Acceler8 culminate in certification by SS8 of successful completion of joint interoperability testing. The scope of certification may include interoperability between Xcipio and/or Intellego XT with specific vendor-supplied network functions such as the session border controller (SBC), the core access and mobility management function (AMF), etc. It also specifies test-pass rates with x1, x2, and x3 links. In sum, the certificate of interoperability testing completion attests to the suitability of the combination of SS8 and third-party elements for deployment to production.
SS8 likewise accrues benefits by operating the Acceler8 program. In addition to increasing the capabilities of its products in deployment, the program better aligns SS8 with providers across the telecommunications network industry. The increased scope of ecosystem involvement and connection expands the company’s knowledge base. As increased collaboration builds mutually beneficial insights and experience, it also enhances SS8’s leadership role in providing lawful intelligence platforms.
The greater standardization of network components that are fostered by cloud-native, highly distributed 5G networks holds the promise for greater interoperability across products supplied by different network component vendors. To take full advantage of this opportunity for LI deployments, testing and validation of the shared behavior between LI solutions and other network components are vital.
The SS8 Acceler8 Alliance Program formalizes the relationships and processes to increase interoperability. As a result, LI implementations are simpler, risk is reduced, and more sophisticated lawful intelligence is possible amid the growing complexity, diversity, and volume of traffic in emerging 5G networks.
Learn more about the SS8 Acceler8 Alliance Program by visiting our website.
About Franklin Recio
Franklin Recio has been with SS8 since the foundation of the company. He has been involved in multiple roles including project management, services, sales, and product development, etc. Currently, he’s in charge of the Acceler8 Alliances program to expand the relationships with other members of the ecosystem. Franklin has an engineering bachelor’s degree in Electronic Communications and a master’s degree in Upper Management and International Development. Currently, he’s pursuing a Ph.D. in Strategic Analysis and Sustainable Development at the Anahuac-Mayab University in Mexico.
SS8 provides Lawful Intelligence platforms. They work closely with leading intelligence agencies, communication providers, law enforcement agencies and standards bodies and their technology incorporates the methodologies discussed in this blog. Xcipio® is already proven to meet the very high demands of 5G and provides the ability to transcode (convert) between lawful intercept handover versions and standard families. Intellego® XT natively supports ETSI, 3GPP and CALEA handovers, as well as national variants. Intellego XT’s MetaHub component is a best-in-class data analytics tool. Both product portfolios are used worldwide for the capture, analysis and delivery of data for the purposes of criminal investigations.