GMSC or Gateway Mobile Switching Centre

When a subscriber dials the number of another mobile subscriber, based on country code and mobile network code (first few digits), the call reaches the subscriber’s home network. Suppose an Airtel subscriber in India dials a mobile number of TMobile USA. Then the initial message for the call setup reaches TMobile’s home network in the USA.

This is a mobile terminated call for the dialed number. Every home network(HPLMN)  has a node called GMSC for mobile terminated calls. It is part of the GSM network. Having connections with all other MSCs, HLR, and real-time charging nodes.

Once GMSC receives a call, it queries the HLR  for the called subscriber. HLR returns a response. Successful Response has a visiting MSC number and MSRN.

In turn, GMSC initiates the call to the visiting MSC. So there are two legs, one incoming and another outgoing. GMSC does switching between these two call legs.

GMSC may have VOIP or SS7 trunks for voice or media. For signaling, SS7 or SIGTRAN is used. Query with HLR is done over SS7 or Sigtran.

Charging in GMSC:

A call may be free or chargeable. In any case, the charging system should know the call details so that charging can be done from the network and subscribers. May do the prepaid or postpaid charging.

In prepaid charging, an IN-based node is used called IN-SCP. Camel is the standard protocol used over SS7 for prepaid charging. The address of IN SCP is received in Response to the query made by GMSC to route the mobile terminated call.

When a call arrives, GMSC sends the trigger to SCP. SCP sends back the Response to continue or release the call. During the conversation, intermediate triggers also propagate between the two.

For postpaid charging, it creates the call detail records. These records are used for billing to subscribers and other telecom carriers. Records are in standard formats so the billing system can read and create an amount in the required currency.

Mobile Number Portability or MNP:

With the arrival of MNP. The serving HLR can not be determined from the mobile number. This requires access to MNP DB. MNP DB maps a mobile number to the currently serving HLR. GMSC needs access to the MNP DB for querying the correct HLR for a mobile terminated call.

Difference Between MSC and GMSC:

If we look at both, they have similar protocol stacks implemented. But GMSC is dedicated to mobile terminated calls. It interacts with the HLR, while MSC does not. MSC is in the roaming network(VPLMN), while GMSC is in the home network (HPLMN).

An MNO has MSCs and GMSC, while MVNO has only GMSC.

MSC connects to the radio network, while GMSC does not.

Protocols used in GMSC :

  • SS7 or Sigtran is a legacy protocol GSM has used for a long time. The roaming network does signaling over SS7.
  • INAP or Camel
  • GSM – MAP,
  • ISUP
  • SIP
  • RTP for VOIP