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Session Border Controllers - How They Work

Published on 24 March 13
Ever used any service available online that allows you to call and talk to your friends, family, clients or any one in general? I am sure you have, otherwise you have truly been living under a rock for the past decade or so. This calling and communication service is a technology that is called Voice over Internet protocol (or VoIP in short). VoIP enables us to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world. However, as with most Internet programs and software, VoIP requires to be monitored for issues such as quality, security and it needs to be regulated in order to avoid breaches of law. For these purposes, we have the Session Border Controller (popularly known as SBC).

SBC is a mechanism that is employed by VoIP providers which is responsible for controlling all flow of communication through their services. For example, if two people, you and I talk via a VoIP service, chances are high that SBC will be monitoring our communication stream. The purposes of using SBC include:

  • protection against external threats such as software intended to harm,
  • to maintain privacy,
  • for better connectivity across wider geographical areas,
  • for better quality overall and
  • to regulate flow of information and to prioritize more important communications, such as in emergency situations

The question is how do they work? It is a bit technical to understand and I will try to make it simple so that more people with less knowledge of IT concepts can easily grasp the idea. For people looking for a deeper knowledge on the topic, I would suggest purchasing a book on the topic.

Internet communication is possible through signaling technology where the signals transfer information through satellite from one user to the other. I will not dwell too deep into signaling here. The point is that SBC’s are employed directly on these signals to monitor all activity for purposes mentioned earlier. The communication between two people via VoIP can be termed a media path and SBC’s monitor this pathway through signals. The communication part of this system controls all conversation flow between two users to monitor the conversation and detect any foul play. The other part of this system controls the quality aspect of the conversation and helps in prioritizing important calls and avoiding any theft or intruders into the conversation.

Furthermore, SBC’s can be deployed in a variety of circumstances such as between the provider of VoIP and a user of this service. They can also be used to monitor the gateway between the a private network and when it enters the realm of public network such as in the case of Internet cafe’s where information is not secure and here this system will try and monitor the position more to avoid any theft or malicious intent by users.

Moreover, a Session Border Controller can also provide a unique service of allowing two different service providers of VoIP to help communicate between them. There has been great debate regarding monitoring private conversations and the opinions are highly polarized. However, one fact remains that this system is one that will remain in use at least for the next few years.
This blog is listed under Telecommunications Community

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