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AAL2 Signaling: A White Paper By: Sumit Kasera, Pitambar Sahoo, Anil Sinha, and Kuldeep Singh.

Introduction The communication world is in a state of flux with rapid technological advancements, both in wireline as well as in wireless domain. In wireline domain, TCP/IP has become the de-facto networking protocol suite. ATM technology, which came into existence around a decade back, had to be mostly contented to live under the shadows of the former. However, certain killer applications like Voice over DSL and 3G wireless has brought ATM back into prominence. In order to support these applications, there have been a lot of standardization efforts by ITU-T and ATM Forum. The AAL2 signaling standard is one of the steps in this direction. This standard provides the ability to dynamically establish and release AAL2 channels over existing ATM VCs. This standard is quite often viewed as an extension of ATM signaling protocol, which is actually not the case. To understand the AAL2 Signaling protocol, the paper is organized as follows. The next section provides a brief overview of AAL2 protocol. This is necessary to understand the signaling protocol. The overview includes discussion on AAL2 structure, message format, applications and operations. This is followed by an outline of AAL2 signaling. This section addresses question like why is AAL2 signaling required, what is its architecture, what are its features, and so on. Then, the differences between AAL2 signaling and ATM signaling is explained. This section is quite comprehensive and explains the need for having a separate signaling protocol. This section is followed by some of the open issues of AAL2 signaling. Then, the feature of DSQs AAL2 Signaling stack is provided. Finally, the last section concludes the paper. ATM Adaptation Layer 2 (AAL2) Overview With regards to voice transfer, there are two important concerns, namely packetization delay (i.e. the time taken to completely fill a packet before it can be transmitted) and efficient use of bandwidth. The packetization delay directly affects the quality of voice, while the second factor is important due to economical concerns. To carry voice, AAL1 was first designed. But it either led to high packetization delay (if cells were held till they were completely filled), or led to inefficient use of bandwidth (if partially-filledcells method was used). To address both these concerns simultaneously, AAL2 was designed (refer [5] for an excellent analysis).
SAP SSCS CPS S e r v ic e S p e c if ic C o n v e r g e n c e S u b la y e r ( m a y b e n u ll) AAL2 P r im itiv e s Common Part

C o m m o n P a r t S u b la y e r


Figure 1: Structure of AAL2 ( [2]

AAL2 is divided into two parts, namely Common Part Sub-layer (CPS) and the Service Specific Convergence Sub-layer (SSCS). CPS, as the name suggest, remains same irrespective of the type of application supported. The main function of CPS is to package variable payload into cells, and to provide error correction. The SSCS depends on the application to be supported. It may also be null. Figure 1 shows the AAL2 structure. Packet Format In order to package information into ATM cell, AAL2 performs a two-step operation. For this, it defines two packet formats, CPS-packet and CPS-PDU. The CPS-packet is a data-unit used to carry payload for one of the many instances that AAL2 supports. To identify the given instance, an identifier called CID is used. Then, there are other fields like length indication, and error-check field. The CPS-packet format is shown in Figure 2. A detailed description of its fields is provided below:

Channel Identifier (CID): This identifies an AAL2 channel (i.e., one of the application entities running over AAL2). AAL2 channel is a bi-directional medium. The same value of CID is used in both the directions. Length Indicator (LI): This indicates the length of packet payload associated with each individual user. The default maximum value of LI is 45 bytes, but it can be as high as 64 bytes. User-to-User Indication (UUI): This provides the link between the CPS and SSCS instance. Header Error control (HEC): This fields is used for error-detection of CPS packet header.


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H 5 a d C

E C b i t s e r P S P a C P S


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c k e t

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Figure 2:AAL2 CPS Packet Format. A partial CPS-packet, a complete CPS-packet or more than one CPS-packet form a CPS-PDU. The format for CPS-PDU is show in Figure 3. The first field is the offset field (OSF) identifier, which identifies the location of start of the next CPS packet within the CPS-PDU. The sequence number (SN) and the parity bit provide data integrity.
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0 l d C D

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Figure 3:AAL2 CPS-PDU Format. AAL2 Operations The AAL2 operations are shown in Figure 4. As shown, CPS-packets form a part of CPS-PDU payload. The OSF field in the CPS-PDU header identifies the boundaries of CPS-packets in the payload. The rationale behind having a two-tier structure is to remove the drawbacks of AAL1. By allowing multiple CPS-packets in one cell by using CID, the efficiency increases. Also, multiplexing of packets from various sources reduces the packetization delay.

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Figure 4:AAL2 operations ( [2]) As a comparative analysis, Table 1 shows the differences between AAL1 and AAL2. Table 1:A snapshot of the AAL1 versus AAL2. AAL1 Payload Offers fix payload. Number user Bandwidth Service of At a time, only a single user can be supported. AAL1 uses bandwidth even when there is no traffic. Constant Bit Rate

AAL2 Offers variable payload within cell and across cells. Supports multiple user channels on a single ATM VC and varying traffic condition for each individual user, or channel. AAL2 uses bandwidth efficiently. Variable Bit Rate

AAL2 Applications ATM adaptation layer 2 is designed for the variable bit rate traffic i.e. compressed voice and video. Actually voice is not a continuous flow, i.e. there are periods of silence during a conversation. Hence, there is no need to occupy bandwidth transmitting this silence. AAL2 provides the means to remove the silence and deliver traffic more effectively. By using SSCS, different voice and video applications can be also supported in a better fashion. AAL2 Signaling Signaling is used between the user and the network, or between two network elements to establish, monitor, and release connections by exchanging control information. In the context of AAL2, the AAL2 signaling protocol encompasses the control plane functions to establish, clear and maintain AAL2 connections (an AAL2 connection can be viewed as the logical concatenation of one or more AAL2 links between two AAL2 service end-points). The ITU-T recommendation Q.2630.1 defines the procedures for AAL2 signaling. Before delving into the specifics of the AAL2 signaling protocol, it is important to note that AAL2 signaling is totally independent of ATM signaling. Moreover, till date, out of all the AALs, only AAL2 has its separate signaling protocol. For other AALs, the procedures necessary for data transfer are merged with ATM signaling procedures. For AAL2, however, it was felt that extensions to ATM signaling would not be sufficient. This was primarily because of the following reasons. First, if ATM signaling protocol were to be extended, then AAL2 network would get coupled to the way the ATM connection is established (i.e. the network has to be switched virtual circuit (SVC) and not permanent virtual circuit (PVC)). Also, since ATM network has many signaling protocols like ATM

Forums UNI 4.0 and PNNI, ITU-Ts Q.2931/Q.2971, and ITU-Ts B-ISUP, extensions in all these protocols have to be made. This is practically very difficult and time-consuming. Second, there were obvious consequences of the decoupling. This decoupling could allow existence of multiple AAL2 overlay networks operating over a single ATM network, each having its own addressing and routing plan. The independence becomes more crucial when the operator of the ATM and AAL2 network is not the same organization, since it allows both parties to be in charge of the addressing within their own network. Third, AAL2 defines multiplexing of many AAL2 channels within an AAL2 virtual connection. To establish and release these connections, a dynamic protocol is necessary. The requirement is fulfilled by AAL2 signaling. Similar requirement does not arise in other AALs because AAL1 and AAL5 does not have multiplexing support, and while AAL3/4 has, it is not popular to the extent that a signaling protocol for it defined. To summarize, AAL2 signaling protocol is a protocol completely independent of ATM signaling. The former assumes the existence of ATM virtual channels on which AAL2 channels are then established. How these ATM virtual channels are established is not within the purview of AAL2 signaling. Features The following stanzas describe the features of AAL2 signaling protocol: Scope and Extent: The scope of AAL2 signaling is restricted to control of AAL2 connections. It is assumed that the appropriate ATM resources must be present before an AAL2 connection can be established. Moreover, an AAL2 signaling endpoint is capable of controlling AAL2 links on more than one ATM VCC. These VCCs may be contained on different ATM VPCs, which in turn may be carried on different ATM physical interfaces. Addressing: The AAL2 signaling supports addressing of AAL2 service endpoints, connected via a network of AAL2 switches. The supported address formats are E.164 and NSAP. Routing: The AAL2 signaling supports hop-by-hop routing. The routing decision is based on addressing information, link characteristics reflecting the resources required, e.g. bandwidth and other information. The standards however do not define procedures whereby the AAL2 switches can exchange routing information. Thus, routing algorithms are implementation specific. Symmetry of connection control: The AAL type 2 signaling protocol and procedures reflect a peer-to-peer (rather than a master/slave) relationship among the AAL type 2 signaling endpoints. For example, both ends may request AAL type 2 connections with the same protocol procedures. Asymmetry connection: The AAL2 signaling support asymmetric AAL2 connections (i.e. the end-to-end connections are bidirectional where the information transfer capability in different direction might be different). Unidirectional AAL2 connections can, therefore, be also provided, i.e. connections that provide zero bandwidth in one direction. Independence from underlying signalling transport: The AAL2 signaling protocol is designed to be independent from the underlying signaling transport. This point is further elaborated in the next section. To achieve this independence, it is assumed that the underlying signaling transport networks supports: assured (error free) data transfer; in-sequence delivery of PDUs; and an indication of flow control. Besides the features mentioned above, AAL2 signaling provides mechanisms for detecting and reporting signaling procedural errors or other failures detected by the AAL2 signaling endpoint to AAL2 management. There are also provisions for forward mechanism and backward compatibility. Moreover, there is a facility to reset all paths, a path and its channels or a particular channel in a path in an interface and to block and unblock AAL2 paths between adjacent nodes.

S e rv e d U s e r A A L 2 S ig . Q .2 6 3 0 . 1 STC ( Q .2 1 5 0 . 2 ) SSC O P ( Q .2 1 3 0 ) SSC O P ( Q .2 1 1 0 ) AAL5- SA R ( I .3 6 3 .5 ) ATM PHY A A L 2 e n d - p o in t ATM PHY A T M s w it c h A A L 2 S ig . Q .2 6 3 0 .1 STC ( Q . 2 1 5 0 .2 ) SSC F ( Q .2 1 3 0 ) SSC O P ( Q .2 1 1 0 ) A AL5 - S A R ( I. 3 6 3 .5 ) ATM PHY A A L 2 s w it c h ATM PHY A T M s w itc h

S e rv e d U s e r A A L 2 S ig . Q .2 6 3 0 .1 STC ( Q .2 1 5 0 . 2 ) SSC O P ( Q .2 1 3 0 ) SSC O P ( Q .2 1 1 0 ) A AL5 - S A R ( I.3 6 3 .5 ) ATM PHY A A L 2 e n d - p o in t

Figure 5: Architecture for AAL2 Signaling. Architecture AAL2 Signaling defines an overlay network over existing ATM network. The overlay network also assumes an addressing, signaling and routing mechanism. However, standards only exist for signaling. There are no standards for routing and addressing. In fact, routing is integrated with signaling and forms a part of the signaling protocol Q.2630.1. For addressing, the standards say that a different addressing plan may be used. But the details for the same are not provided.

A A L 2 E n d - p o in t
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A A L 2 E n d - p o in t A A L 2 S w it c h
A A L 2 S ig . S t a c k (Q .2 6 3 0 .1 ) S ig n a lin g T ra n s p o rt C o n v e rte r S i g n a l in g T ra n s p o rt C o n v e r te r AAL 2 S e rv e d User A A L 2 S ig . S ta c k ( Q .2 6 3 0 .1 ) S ig n a li n g T ra n s p o rt C o n v e r te r

U n d e r l y i n g S i g n a l in g T r a n s p o r t ( e .g . M T P 3 b + N N I -S A A L , U N I -S A A L , .)

U n d e r ly in g S ig n a lin g T r a n s p o r t ( e .g . M T P 3 b + N N I -S A A L , U N I -S A A L , . )

Figure 6: AAL2 Signaling Stack- reference model The architecture for AAL2 Signaling is shown in Figure 5. A refined illustration for the exact position is shown in Figure 6. As shown, an AAL2 stack can either reside at end-points or at intermediate switches. At the end-point, the AAL2 stack provides services (like connection establishment and release) to the served user. In the intermediate nodes (i.e. switches), the AAL2 stack provides bridging and routing support. The underlying layer of AAL2 is a signaling transport converter or STC. The converter is specific to the type of transport mechanism. For example, if AAL2 signaling stack resides over UNI/SAAL then the signaling transport converter is based on ITU-T Recommendation Q.2150.2.

Applications AAL2 is primarily used to carry voice. Thus, AAL2 stack finds application in scenarios where voice is carried. One scenario where AAL2 stack is particularly useful is in Voice over DSL (VoDSL). In VoDSL, an ATM connection exists over DSL line between CPE and the network. Now, multiple voice connections over AAL2 can be configured over a single PVC connection. In order to dynamically establish and release voice calls over AAL2, AAL2 signaling stack can be used.
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Figure 7: Role of AAL2 Signaling- the user plane protocol stack [6] Another application of AAL2 is in 3G Mobile Access Networks. The scenario for this is shown in (for details, refer [6]). In the figure, MT refers to Mobile Terminal, BS refers to Base Station, and S-RNC refers to serving Radio Network Controller. In order to support soft handover, there is a requirement to establish and release transmission paths between RNC and BS. Moreover, the time taken for such establishment is to be kept small. This necessitates the use of a signaling protocol over AAL2. For details, the reader is referred to [6]. Table 2: A Snapshot of the ATM Signaling versus AAL2 Signaling. ATM Signaling AAL2 Signaling Motivation Provides for the establishment and AAL2 signaling stack is used to establish, release of virtual connections with release, and maintain AAL2 connections. parameters as specified in SETUP An AAL2 connection exists between two message. AAL2 end-points. Architecture Signaling and routing are done by No separate routing protocol is defined. separate protocols. Handshaking A three-way handshake for call- A two-way handshake for both callestablishment while a two-way establishment and call-release. handshake for call-release. Timers A total of 9 timers for timer-protecting A total of 5 timers for timer-protecting various signaling messages various signaling messages Call Identifier Single Identifier (i.e. CRV or Call More optimized solution by using two Reference Value) and a flag (CRV identifiers (originating SAID and flag): Leads to performance issues destination SAID) where SAID is Signaling Association Identifier Message Formatting is done using type-length- Formatting is done using type-lengthFormatting value format. value format. Parameter Limited parameter negotiation No possibility of negotiation because the Negotiation possible by inclusion of alternate hand-shake is two-way only signaling parameters and minimum signaling parameters.

AAL2 Signaling versus ATM Signaling The comparison between AAL2 Signaling and ATM Signaling offers interesting insight into the design of any signaling protocol. ATM Signaling protocol, documented in ITU-T Q.2931, is derived from the ISDN Signaling protocol Q.931. Thus, the former has a similar look and feel as that of latter. On the other hand, AAL2 Signaling protocol, as defined in Q.2630.1, is different. The following sub-section looks at some of the similarities and differences between the two signaling protocol. Motivation ATM virtual connections are established either statically or dynamically. The static connections are called PVCs or Permanent Virtual Connections. The dynamic connections, on the other hand, are called SVCs or Switched Virtual Connections. The ATM Signaling protocol provides for the establishment and release of these dynamic or switched virtual connections. The parameter of an SVC is specified in SETUP message that is defined in the Q.2931 protocol. What ATM Signaling is for an ATM virtual connection, the same is AAL2 Signaling for an AAL2 connection. AAL2 signaling stack is used to establish, release, and maintain AAL2 connections. An AAL2 connection exists between two AAL2 end-points. As mentioned earlier, AAL2 signaling protocol is a protocol completely independent of ATM signaling. The former assumes the existence of ATM virtual channels on which AAL2 channels are then established. How these ATM virtual channels are established is not within the purview of AAL2 signaling. The channels may be established statically or dynamically. The layer management ensures that the ATM virtual channel is available before a request for AAL2 connection is made. Architecture The architecture of ATM is somewhat different from AAL. ATM defines its own means for addressing (based on AESA or ATM End-System Address), signaling (based on Q.2931/Q.2971), and routing (based on PNNI or Private Network-Node Interface). Thus, ATM has well-defined components in its architecture. Figure 8 shows the network architecture for ATM Signaling with its various components and protocols. As shown in the figure, the main component is UNI Signaling protocol Q.2931 (for point-to-point signaling) and Q.2971 (for point-to-multipoint) as shown in gray. The dashed lines show UNI and NNI. A UNI is the interface between user and network element, while an NNI is the interface between two network elements. The discussion in the paper is restricted to UNI signaling. The NNI interface is specified by PNNI protocol, which specified both signaling and routing mechanisms.
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Figure 8: Architecture for ATM Signaling ( [2])

Handshaking Handshaking refers to the basic exchange of signaling messages along with signaling parameters. The ATM Signaling protocol follows a three-way handshake for call-establishment (see Figure 9) and a twoway handshake for call-release (see Figure 10). The basic parameters of SETUP message are Broadband Bearer Capability Destination address Traffic Descriptor QoS information The key element in RELEASE is cause. U -U N I N -U N I N -U N I U -U N I U NI UNI

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Figure 9: Call establishment procedure in ATM Signaling ( [2])

U -U N I N -U N I N -U N I U -U N I


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Figure 10: Call release procedure in ATM Signaling ( [2]) AAL2 Signaling follows a simpler approach with simple two-way handshaking for call establishment and release (see Figure 11). The basic parameters of ERQ message are Connection element identifier that includes path identifier and channel identifier, Service specific information to define the type of SSCS residing over AAL2, Destination address in NSAP or E.164 format The release message has cause as the key element.

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Figure 11: Call establishment and release procedure in AAL2 Signaling Timers The timers provide means to retransmit lost messages. In ATM signaling, there are a total of 9 timers. The standard specifies action upon first and second expiry. Since two expiries is permissible, it is possible to retransmit lost messages? In contrast, AAL2 Signaling has a total of 5 timers. In general, only internal action is taken upon expiry and there is only limited support for retransmission. Call Identification In ATM Signaling, a 23-bit field called Call Reference Value (CRV) is used to identify a particular instance of a call. This is locally unique and is generated by the originating end. To ensure that the peer also does not generate the same value, a 1-bit flag called CRV-flag is used. To quote from [1], the problem associated with this strategy, In most implementations, the CRV chosen by the initiator of the call is done in such a way so as to simplify the search operations when a message is received back with this CRV. To take an example, information about the calls (active or inactive) within a system can be maintained as an array, and the index in the array can be used to generate the CRV Id. Now, since the CRV is a 23bit identifier, it may not be feasible to keep an array of 8million entries (to have a one-to-one mapping between the CRV and the array index). To keep the array size manageable, only some low-order bits of CRV (say 16 of them) can be formed using the index of the array. When a message is received back, a part of the CRV is masked out to get back the index in the array. Using this index, all information pertaining to the call can be easily retrieved. However, this flexibility of choosing a CRV is not available at the other end of the interface, since the CRV is not allocated there (i.e., CRV is allocated by remote end). Hence, the search strategy at the corresponding interface to determine the call related information associated with the CRV may not be very efficient. It is quite likely that a balanced tree is used with its associated searching overhead. The scheme used at the interface generating the CRV cannot be applied in this case, unless an array of 8million entries is maintained, or it is ensured that the remote user is not using the most significant bits (in which case a smaller array can be maintained). An array of 8 million entries is expected to be sparse, and hence a one-to-one mapping at this interface may not be feasible. To take care of this situation, we propose the introduction of an optional "Remote CRV" IE. Here, when the first signaling message is received at an interface, a local CRV is allocated (just as it was done at the sender-end of the interface) and send back as part of the first response within the "Remote CRV" IE. Note that the CRV that was allocated by the other end of the interface is still sent normally. Thus, each signaling message henceforth would have both the normal CRV IE used currently as well as the optional "Remote CRV" IE. Now, even for remotely originated calls, the search is made using the CRV carried in Remote CRV IE. Using this CRV, a direct search can be made thereby making search operations at the remote end also simple. As it follows from above, [1] had suggested use of two identifiers. In AAL2 Signaling, this method has actually been adopted. There are two identifiers or SAIDs (Signaling Association Identifier), namely Originating SAID (OSAID) and Destination SAID (DSAID). At the time of call initiation, the originating

end allocates an OSAID. On receiving the call initiation message, the receiving end binds the OSAID to a newly allocated DSAID. All further communication takes place using only that identifier which the peer had allocated. This solution is more optimized in the sense that no tree needs to be maintained, an array is sufficient.
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Figure 12: Message formats in a) ATM Signaling and b) AAL2 Signaling Message Formatting The message formatting for both ATM Signaling and AAL2 Signaling is done using the standard typelength-value format using a two-level hierarchy (see Figure 12). However, there are slight differences. In ATM Signaling, the top-level hierarchy contains the CRV, message-identifier, message length, and the contents. In AAL2 Signaling, the length field is missing. It is assumed that the Assured Data Transfer (ADT) over which AAL2 Signaling runs does not lose or gain octets, and that a primitive between AAL2 Signaling and ADT provides length information. Apart from this difference, the basic formatting of messages at the top level is the same. At the second level of hierarchy, the type-length-value is used. There are no major differences. The only difference is in the nomenclature. In ATM signaling, the groups of information are called IEs or information elements, while in AAL2 signaling these are called parameters. Parameter Negotiation Parameter negotiation refers to agreeing upon the parameters for communication. In ATM Signaling, the key parameters are traffic descriptors, which define the nature of a connection. The ATM Signaling protocol provides limited support for parameter negotiation. This is through the use of multiple instances of same IEs or through the use of alternate IEs. For example, the ATM Traffic Descriptor IE can have additionally an Alternate ATM Traffic Descriptor IE also present. The receiving entity can choose between the two in decreasing order of preference. Moreover, the sending entity can also send Minimum ATM Traffic Descriptor IE instead of Alternate ATM Traffic Descriptor IE. Inclusion of such IEs provides scope for parameter negotiation. There is no analogous support in AAL2 signaling. Issues and Challenges in AAL2 Signaling The AAL2 Signaling protocol is a relatively new protocol. One of the important problems that remain unsolved in this protocol is acquisition and distribution of routing information. As mentioned earlier, the solution to this problem is implementation specific. This feature of has an important bearing on the scope of AAL2 signaling. This is because without the support of a routing protocol, static routing would be typically used. Thus, AAL2 signaling would be limited to small domains. Its primary function would then be to provide dynamic AAL2 connection setup and release on a virtual channel (i.e. basically, a mechanism to exchange channel identifiers). Another aspect of AAL2 Signaling that warrants notice is the use Generic Signaling Transport Layers. While this provides the flexibility of using a number of underlying layers, it increases the complexity of protocol stack. And when only one of the many possible options is primarily used, such generic mechanism are problematic rather than being beneficial.

DSQ AAL2 Signaling Stack offering DSQ AAL2 Signaling stack developed on Linux platform using C language. DSQ AAL2 Signaling stack has the following features: DSQ AAL2 Signaling stack based on the ITU-T standard Q.2630.1. Provides operating system independency. Provides tracing facility to trace the errors of each AAL2 modules. Provides the facility to switch the mode of operation of AAL2 Signaling stack (i.e. either EndPoint or Switch, it is configurable) Provides the statistics related to calls (i.e. number of active calls, number of calls established, and number of calls released), timer (i.e. number of expired timers for each timer type), and messages (i.e. number of unrecognized message received and number of confusion message received) Provides the message queue as well as function based interfaces between neighboring entities. A flag can decide one of interface technique, at compile time.

Summary In order to overcome the limitations of ATM signaling, AAL2 Signaling was developed. The most important aspect of AAL2 signaling is that it decouples the way the ATM connection is established from the way an AAL2 channel is established i.e. Irrespective of whether an ATM connection is SVC or PVC, an AAL2 channel can be established over it. The advantages of this decoupling have already been explained. The other important feature of AAL2 signaling is allocation and deallocation of channel identifiers. This facility imparts greater dynamism to information transfer. Due to its features, AAL2 Signaling has opened exciting possibilities. Voice over DSL and 3G Mobile Access Networks are two of many such application scenarios. Bibliography [1] ATM SVC Signaling Stack: Implementation Guidelines by Nishit Narang and Sumit Kasera. [2] ATM Networks: Concepts and Protocols by Sumit kasera and Pankaj Sethi. [3] Adapting Voice For ATM Networks: An AAL2 Tutorial from General DataComm. [4] Adapting Voice For ATM Networks: A comparison of AAL2 Tutorial from General DataComm. [5] AAL-2 A New ATM Adaptation Layer for Small Packet Encapsulation and Multiplexing by John H. Baldwin, et. al, Bell Labs Technical Journal, Spring 1997. [6] Applying ATM/AAL2 as a Switching Technology in Third-Generation Mobile Access Networks, by G. Eneroth et. al. IEEE Comm, June 1999.