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What is the Advanced Intelligent Network?

Robert Grimmick
Robert Grimmick

The Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN) is a type of telecommunications system that layers computer intelligence on top of traditional telephone switching equipment, thereby enabling advanced services without major network upgrades. It can be used on both wired and wireless networks, and relies on massive computer databases to manage and route calls to the appropriate service. Telecommunications providers may use the technology to provide a value-added service such as conference calling or call screening.

Development of the Advanced Intelligent Network was primarily carried out by Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), a research and development firm established following the breakup of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) in 1982. Bellcore supported the “Baby Bells” established after the AT&T divestiture, and as a result its AIN technology emerged as a North American standard for advanced telecommunications networks. Similar, somewhat compatible technologies were developed outside of North America.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Advanced Intelligent Network technology is implemented on the “service layer,” meaning all of the advanced functions and intelligence operate in a realm above the electrical switches and other equipment in a telecommunications network. This is important because it means an AIN can be established or upgraded without investing in large amounts of new networking equipment. It also means the technology will work on many different types of networks, i.e., from traditional wired telephone networks to wireless mobile phone networks.

Most of the so-called intelligence in an Advanced Intelligence Network comes from large computer databases known as Service Control Points (SCPs). When a customer makes a call requiring advanced services, a special type of switch called a Service Switching Point (SSP) transmits information to an SCP using a family of telecommunications protocols called Signaling System 7 (SS7). The SCP consults its database and then replies to the SSP with instructions on how and where the call should be sent. Special tools allow the SCP’s databases to be updated with new services, thus allowing telecom providers to introduce new features without costly hardware upgrades.

Since adding a new service is as simple as updating a computer database, telecom providers have a great deal of freedom in determining what features their Advanced Intelligent Network provides. Common services include advanced billing or toll-free calling, conference calling, caller ID, or advanced routing functions. More advanced possibilities include televoting, abbreviated number dialing, and Local Number Portability (LNP), which allows consumers to move their phone numbers to different houses or service providers.

One potential drawback to Advanced Intelligent Network technology is that it was designed in a time when traditional voice-only analog telephone networks were dominant. As communications networks have grown to include cellular, digital, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, telecommunications companies have expressed growing interest in network architectures designed for voice, data, and multimedia. New technologies like the Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) are expected to make up the Next Generation Intelligent Network (NGIN), a paradigm that will blur the distinction between telecommunications and computer networks.

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