When simple changes aren’t…tales of MGCP to h.323 conversions

Maintenance windows have a way of reminding you that simple changes aren’t always so simple.

Take a recent after hours task of switching over some MGCP gateways to h.323.  The primary inbound gateway was already h.323 and the MGCP gateways were – well, MGCP – so it made sense to make everything uniform and do the conversion.

So I changed all my calls to route in and out the primary gateway, which was already h.323, and set about making my changes.  In case you haven’t done this before, here is a brief outline of the process – not meant to be a step-by-step, all inclusive list, just a general idea of the process.

On the gateway side:

-set isdn switch type on the router (you can get this from the MGCP configuration in CUCM)
-bind h323 to source interface
-create inbound and outbound dial peers on the router
-remove MGCP bind command and other MGCP configuration (you will need to shutdown the voice port to do this)
-reconfigure the T1 controller
-put in place any translation patterns required
-add commands for calling name and/or Facility IE support if required

On the Cisco Unified Call Manager side:

-create the gateway 
-add the gateway to a route group
-add the gateway to a test route list
-create a few route patterns to send calls out the gateway
-add gateway to production route list(s)

My plan was proceeding perfectly up until I needed to send a long distance call out one of the recently converted gateways.  The call received a reorder tone from the carrier even though the debug isdn q931 output showed my call going out with the proper digit format. I knew long distance calls were working going out this gateway before, so I was pretty sure it had to be something with my configuration even though it looked like a carrier issue.  

After comparing configurations with the current h.323 gateway (PRI to the same carrier), uttering a lot of fairly creative yet non repeatable curses, and wasting an hour of my life with a clueless carrier tech who swore I wasn’t sending the 1 required for long distance, the obvious finally hit me.  And it was annoyingly painful.

See, I had made the assumption that long distance calling had been tested out the primary gateway when it was installed.  I foolishly believed that outbound long distance via the primary h.323 gateway had been tested at installation, as this is pretty much standard and *should* be part of any voice gateway install process.  Once I wised up and tested that theory, however, I realized that all long distance calling to the carrier was broken from every gateway, including the old h.323 one which I hadn’t changed anything on.  Knowing this couldn’t be the result of my conversion efforts, I was now able to think through what the real source of the issue could be.

When you send the carrier the right digit format and yet they emphatically insist you most definitely aren’t, you are likely hitting an issue I blogged about in my first ever post.  In some cases, a carrier switch reads your ISDN plan type and takes digit stripping action based on it. They seem to be completely unaware they are even doing it, so don’t expect the carrier to ever discover this is your problem. The solution is simply to set a translation pattern that changes the plan type to UNKNOWN and then the carrier switch doesn’t try to do you any favors and manipulate the digits. Problem solved.

I am now adding testing inbound and outbound calling from ALL gateways before making changes to my check list.  Pass the bourbon please.

Bonus material:
At the time, I didn’t think about the 8945 phones (and newer phones with video capabilities) that often require you add a specific command to the ISDN voice port, otherwise outbound calls from the device fail. I discovered this while finishing up my testing plan and was able to fix it before anyone noticed.  A very good reason to have a thorough testing plan no matter how small the changes being made. Here’s a link to a forum post on this type of issue and the command you need to fix it:

voice-port 0/1/0:23
bearer-cap speech

Also, your lucky day, some commands for calling name when carrier is using the Facility IE:

voice service voip
h225 display-ie ccm-compatible
interface Serial0/1/0:23
isdn supp-service name calling
isdn outgoing display-ie

Published 7/2/2014

Translating nothing into nothing…

Wanna confuse a just-starting-out voice engineer quickly? Just show them voice translation rules. Seemingly simple on the surface, black magic voodoo underneath.  At least it can seem that way to someone new to voice…

The most recent dark magic I learned to perform came about on an issue I was 90% sure was a carrier issue – I like to hold out a 10% chance that the carrier actually did get it right, it’s only fair.

So a user reports that international calls to Great Britain are failing- no other international calls are failing, just those.  Now, I don’t know about your users, but mine *often* have trouble even figuring out the digits to dial to make a long distance call, so my confidence in them being able to accurately enter an international access code is low. Okay, non-existent.

So we fire up the good ole “debug isdn q931” and to my surprise the user is actually right. Surprise being the appropriate emotion since, let’s face it, that doesn’t happen everyday.  I take a capture of the call failure to Great Britain and a capture of the successful international call and conclude that the carrier must be goofing something up somewhere.

Now, I’m really not a blame-it-on-the-other-guy type of gal, but come on- the dial strings are hitting the same route pattern, sent to the same gateway, to the same dial-peer, and out the same voice port.  And only Great Britain numbers fail – thinking it’s not likely my system- seeing that there’s equal treatment to all things international on this end. I reasonably conclude the carrier switch must have some super special, surely unintentional, non-routing going on.

Arming the user with debugs, I send him on his way to confront the carrier with the proof of their Anglophobic ways. That’s when I learn I have overlooked something significant in the debugs- something the lovely carrier technician pointed out – likely with a smirk on his I-know-I’m-right face.

The q931 debugs showed the “type” for the Great Britain calls being marked with type as “International” whereas the calls for other international destinations were being marked with type of  “Unknown.”  Why is this significant?  Well, the “International” designation when received by a carrier switch causes that switch to prepend a 011 to the dialed string.  In this case, it’s extremely detrimental since 011 was already part of the digits placed on the line.

There are many ways to fix this issue, the one I liked best as you may have guessed, involves a translation pattern and was suggested by one of my brilliant coworkers.

It goes like this:

voice translation-rule 1
  rule 1 // // type any unknown plan any unknown

This rule will take anything that hits it, change any “type” to Unknown and any “plan” to Unknown.

It then needs to be added to a translation profile that will catch the called number:

voice translation-profile SET_UNKNOWN
  translate called 1

This then gets applied to the outgoing international dial peer:

dial-peer voice 10000 pots
translation-profile outgoing SET_UNKNOWN
destination-pattern 9011T
prefix 011
port 0/0/0:23

And there you have it.  Calls to the Queen Mother can now commence and users can rejoice!

In case you are still reading this and are interested in the debugs, here are some pertinent excerpts:

From the unsuccessful call (X’s added to protect calling/called parties): Note, Plan:ISDN, Type: International

Bearer Capability i = 0x8090A2
Standard = CCITT
Transfer Capability = Speech
Transfer Mode = Circuit
Transfer Rate = 64 kbit/s
Channel ID i = 0xA98396
Exclusive, Channel 22
Calling Party Number i = 0x2181, ‘XXXXXX3547’
Plan:ISDN, Type:National
Called Party Number i = 0x91, ‘01144XX80212223’
Plan:ISDN, Type:International

From the successful call (X’s added to protect calling/called parties) – Note, Plan: Unknown, Type:Unknown:

Bearer Capability i = 0x8090A2
Standard = CCITT
Transfer Capability = Speech
Transfer Mode = Circuit
Transfer Rate = 64 kbit/s
Channel ID i = 0xA98395
Exclusive, Channel 21
Calling Party Number i = 0x2181, ‘XXXXXX3547’
Plan:ISDN, Type:National
Called Party Number i = 0x80, ‘01133XX2087574’
Plan:Unknown, Type:Unknown