The Proxy-Call Session Control Function is the first network element a UE sends it’s SIP REGISTER message to, but how does it get there?
To begin with our UE connects as it would normally, getting a default bearer, an IP address and connectivity.
If the USIM has an ISIM application on it (or IMS is enabled on the UE using USIM for auth) and an IMS APN exists on the UE for IMS, the UE will set up another bearer in addition to the default bearer.
This bearer will carry our IMS traffic and allow QoS to be managed through the QCI values set on the bearer.
While setting up the bearer the UE requests certain parameters from the network in the Protocol Configuration Options element, including the P-CSCF address.
When setting up the bearer the network responds with this information, which if supported includes the P-CSCF IPv4 &/or IPv6 addresses.
The Message Exchange
We’ll start assuming the default bearer is in place & our UE is configured with the APN for IMS and supports IMS functionality.
The first step is to begin the establishment of an additional bearer for the IMS traffic.
This is kicked off through the Uplink NAS Transport, PDN Connectivity Request from the UE to the network. This includes the IMS APN information, and the UE’s NAS Payload includes the Protocol Configuration Options element (PCO), with a series of fields the UE requires responses from the network. including DNS Server, MTU, etc.
In the PCO the UE also includes the P-CSCF address request, so the network can tell the UE the IP of the P-CSCF to use.
If this is missing it’s because either your APN settings for IMS are not valid, or your device doesn’t have IMS support or isn’t enabling it.(that could be for a few reasons).
The MME gets this information from the P-GW, and the network responds in the E-RAB Setup Request, Activate default EPS bearer Context Request and includes the Protocol Configuration Options again, this time the fields are populated with their respective values, including the P-CSCF Address;
Once the UE has this setup, the eNB confirms it’s setup the radio resources through the E-RAB Setup Response.
One the eNB has put the radio side of things in place, the UE confirms the bearer assignment has completed successfully through the Uplink NAS Transport, Activate default EPS Bearer Accept, denoting the bearer is now in place.
Now the UE has the IP address(s) of the P-CSCF and a bearer to send it over, the UE establishes a TCP socket with the address specified in the P-CSCF IPv4 or IPv6 address, to start communicating with the P-CSCF.
The SIP REGISTER request can now be sent and the REGISTRATION procedure can begin.
I’ve attached a PCAP of the full exchange here.
I’ve written a bit about the Gm REGISTER procedure and how IPsec is implemented between the UE and the P-CSCF in this post.
If you’re leaning about VoLTE & IMS networks, or building your own, I’d suggest checking out my other posts on the topic.