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U.S. seeks trials to test transition to digital phone networks

31 Jan


U.S. wireless providers like AT&T Inc andVerizon Communications Inc on Thursday received a nod from regulators to test a transition of the telephone industry away from traditional analog networks to digital ones.

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted in favor of trials, in which telecommunications companies would test switching telephone services from existing circuit-switchtechnology to an alternative Internet protocol-based one to see how the change may affect consumers.

The experiments approved by the FCC would not test the new technology – it is already being used – and would not determine law and policy regulating it, FCC staff said. The trials would seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the change and how new technology performs in emergency situations, including in remote locations.

“What we’re doing here is a big deal. This is an important moment,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “We today invite service providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks.”

The move in part grants the application by AT&T to conduct IP transition tests as companies that offer landline phone services seek to ultimately replace their old copper wires with newer technology like fiber or wireless.

“We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever,” Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said.

Some consumers, particularly in rural or hard-to-reach areas, have complained about poor connectivity of their IP-based services. Advocates have also expressed concerns about the impact of the transition on consumers with disabilities.

“I think we must be mindful of the impact this transition has on consumers — their needs, their expectations and their willingness to embrace network change,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat.

The trials will be voluntary, and regulators require that the experiments “cover areas with different population densities and demographics, different topologies, and/or different seasonal and meteorological conditions.” They also require that no consumers be left disconnected.



Market Dynamics Forcing Transformation to All-IP Network

11 Feb


Everything about how we communicate has changed over the past decade. For written communication, we’ve gone from letter writing to email and from email to social media postings. For voice communications, we transitioned from fixed line phones to mobile phones to texting and video calls over the Internet. For data communications, we’ve gone from computers to laptops to tablets and smart phones – let alone the ability to connect to the network anywhere, at any time and in any place. Furthermore, entertainment services have moved from analog to digital and single screen to multiscreen.

To further emphasize the impact of these changes – many of these services are moving from household based to individual based services – further challenging network operators to adapt quickly.

Nothing is more indicative of this change than the migration of access lines from fixed to VoIP and mobile. As shown for the U.S. market, fixed access lines have rapidly declined as demand shifts to mobile and VoIP – with VoIP now representing 26% of access lines. And, according to the latest statistics (2011) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than one-third of all households are now wireless only.


Network operators have acknowledged that their future is dependent on their ability to build flexible, intelligent, IP-based networks that will enable them to deliver converged communication and multimedia services that customers demand. These new networks must be able to allow for faster introduction of new services; operate at reduced costs while increasing efficiencies, and providing customers with control, choice and flexibility in their services.

Although operators have been transitioning parts of their networks towards IP over the last decade – the approach has been fragmented – resulting in both high capital and operating costs with significant redundancies and inefficiencies.

The goal of the All-IP network is to completely transform (“to change in composition or structure”) the 100+ years of legacy network infrastructure into a simplified and standardized network with a single common infrastructure for all services.

Operator Strategy will vary

The starting point for each operator will likely be different as the dynamics of each market vary. Operators with extensive legacy infrastructure will need a different approach than those with more recent network investment (e.g., North America versus India). Additionally, the regulatory environment will play a key role in the migration strategy for many operators. However, the common thread for all operators will be the convergence of the voice and data networks into a single IP network.

Over the past decade many operators have successfully implemented network migration strategies based on NGN and IMS, with BT taking a precedent setting approach with its 21CN initiative back in 2004. Unfortunately, the dynamics of the telecommunications market, particularly in the broadband, mobility and application segments were drastically underestimated by the architects – but they did get a few things right – especially their view of Ethernet as a change agent.

Thinking outside of the box

To anticipate future change in network demands and services, Deutsche Telekom is taking a more radical approach with its recently revealed TeraStream architecture, a system that combines cloud and network technology. The simplified architecture will comprise of two types of routers: R1 and R2. The R1 routers are used for customer aggregation and all policy, and the R2 combine the functions for core, peering and datacenter switching/interconnect. The R1 and R2 routers are connected by an optical ring that forms the core of the network, while the core transmits Ethernet frames carrying IPv6 traffic allowing policy processing for different services through a single IP lookup.


Key elements of the TeraStream architecture include an all-IPv6 streamlined routing architecture; fully converged IP and optical layers with 100G coherent optics tightly integrated with the routers; integrated cloud service centers, enabling virtualized network services and applications for rapid service innovation; programmatic interfaces aligned with the software-defined networking (SDN) architecture for real-time automation and OSS; and customer self-service management capabilities.

Prior to this new architecture, the BSS and OSS functions were highly fragmented resulting is long innovations cycles for the introduction of new services. The TeraStream architecture retires the legacy systems and provides clear distinction between OSS and BSS functionality while allowing services differentiation towards customers; instant provisioning; instant change of access features; a reduction of products innovation cycle from 2 to 4 years to less than ½ years; no latencies; and significant cost advantages.


What differentiates this concept from other All-IP implementations is the fact that all the services, including the traditional Telco services (voice, IPTV, Internet access) will be delivered from the Cloud as opposed to the network.

DT is currently in a one-year pilot trial of its TeraStream architecture in Croatia through its Hrvatski Telekom subsidiary. In this market, DT plans to have 100 percent of its network migrated to All-IP by 2014/2015.

Regulatory Impact

A big question for many markets will be how much regulatory policy will impact operator strategies for All-IP. In the U.S. market, AT&T has stated that current regulation has had an “investment-chilling” effect on infrastructure investment and requests the FCC to take action now to facilitate the transition from TDM-to-IP and prevent stranded investment in obsolete facilities and services.

In Europe, concerns remain about competition and the impact these network transformation will have on unbundled local loops while balancing the goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

Regardless, the market is changing and fast. Yogi Berra may have said it best: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else”. The move to All-IP is not an if, but more of a when and it is certainly closer to sooner than later – perhaps by the end of this decade.


Global Information Technology Report 2012 – Living in a Hyperconnected World

29 Dec

Over the past decade the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) has been measuring the degree to which economies across the world leverage ICT for enhanced competitiveness. During this period, it has been helping policymakers and relevant stakeholders to track their economies’ strengths and weaknesses as well as their progress over time. In addition, it has identified best practices in networked readiness and designed roadmaps and strategies for establishing optimal ICT diffusion to boost competiveness. Since 2002, the networked readiness framework has remained stable, aside from some minor adjustments at the variable level to better reflect the dynamic trends in the technology landscape. This has allowed for meaningful comparisons across time and created a valuable database of technology metrics. However, the ICT industry has changed dramatically since 2002 and its effects are increasingly transforming our economies and societies. More precisely, over the past decade, the world has become increasingly “hyperconnected.”


In a world of FaceTime and Kik, what happens to the phone number?

3 Dec

With the transition to an all-VoIP world phone numbers are a bit of an anachronism but even the die-hard VoIP lovers at think the 10-digit number is here to stay at least for another decade. Here’s how your digits will transition to the digital.


With AT&T’s news earlier this month that it wants to get our of the old-school telephone business and transition to an all-IP network, we’re at a watershed moment in telecommunications. But for the millions out there who can’t tell circuit-switched voice from voice over the Internet (VoIP) one of the bigger issues is what does the transition to VoIP mean for telephone numbers.

Theoretically, in an all-IP world you don’t need phone numbers. You need the equivalent of a URL where people can find you. But anyone who spends much time using web-based communications services such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Talk (or Hangouts) it’s clear that one URL for one person might be a pipe dream. And honestly, there are probably plenty of people who wouldn’t want to be found at a single place — those people probably enjoy having one number for work and another for home. It provides a nice demarcation for their lives.

Plus, the idea of having one method for contacting you via voice, video, text or IM also means that you need smarter services or parameters on the back end to ensure that when the phone rings at 2AM in an emergency you hear the call, a wrong number wouldn’t disturb you. These are not new issues. Ever since the rise of VoIP and the big tech firms began proposing this concept of unified communications, we’ve been thinking about these issues. But the looming end of the circuit-switched network brings the fate of the telephone number back up again.

Phone numbers get upcycled

Kid playing telephoneAccording to executives at, one of whom has two decades in the telecommunications sector, the concept of phone number isn’t going anywhere — instead it will get upcycled and used in new ways. For example Tom Steffans of iNetwork, the wholesale division of expects ten-digit numbers to last for at least a decade for many reasons, including the main one, which is that the public switched telephone network isn’t going to disappear overnight. Plus, we still don’t have something to replace the phone number with.

“You can communicate with your friends on whatever platform is popular today, but then in a few years you switch over to the next Facebook?” Steffans asked.

But in our conversation he did bring up some interesting ideas about how the telephone number is getting gussied up for a digital age. is the sixth largest telco in the U.S. based on the number of telephone numbers it has, and provides the IP platforms for clients such as Pinger, Google Voice and Twilio. Some of its products are number-based — namely abstracting the complexities of getting, provisioning and managing telephone numbers. The iNetwork division offers customers an API and takes care of the legal and mechanical logistics of finding and managing telephone numbers.

And then services take those numbers and use them not for voice calls, but in the case of Pinger for an over-the-top-texting service. OR Google which uses a phone number to deliver a voice service of its own. Or for companies like Marchex and Flexicalls so they could pop a phone number on a web site and use it for lead generation. But in those use cases, the old way of handling a phone number, which basically meant the carrier kept it our of circulation for 30 days to “clean” it, doesn’t always make sense. Cleaning a number basically means making sure that no one is calling it looking for its former owner. For a texting service that might not be as important, since phone calls wouldn’t go through as texts. For a lead generation number it might be, since the company wouldn’t want false leads.

Don’t stick your head in the sand

istock_000014439456xsmall (1)“It’s no longer Amy calling Jim, it’s two 13-year-olds texting each other or Jim calling Skype. It’s advertisers putting numbers on the web where its lifespan may only be two days” says Steffans. “The dynamic, and who uses and consumes a number has dramatically changed, but none of the old rules have changed.”

And as those rules change it’s an open question if the traditional telephone providers are ready to offer services like Twilio or does. In an all-IP world providing access is not the services, it’s the platform on which you build a service. Many people inside the traditional voice companies still see the service they provide as voice, or data or video. But in an all-IP world the baseline is IP and a provider can sell that at bare bones pricing or build up value by creating services on top of it. competes with some of its clients in a fashion, and that’s fine with it. Will AT&T, Sprint or Verizon be able to keep up? Do they want to?


The Next Generation Signaling Core for LTE and IMS

25 Jul

The next generation signaling core: we’ve been using this term of late to describe a transformation taking place in service provider networks as they migrate to all-IP networks such as LTE and IMS. But what is it? It’s the network that coordinates the communication protocols associated with establishing voice and data services. It is solely internal to a single service provider and handles signaling traffic headed north and south (to/from access networks and core elements) as well as east and west (across network domains to/from external network). It does not connect directly to the access or external networks, but to the network elements that manage those security boundaries. Nor does it handle the actual media itself, just the signaling.

It is altogether different from the core signaling of SS7 used in 3G, PSTN and other TDM or hybrid networks. The signaling core of all-IP networks is based on two protocols: SIP to establish communication sessions (voice, video, messaging) and Diameter to exchange subscriber profile data (authentication, charging, QoS and mobility information).

There are two products that lie at the heart of this core and play traffic cop and maestro to the huge volume of disparate and potentially discordant exchange of messages: session route proxies (SRPs) and Diameter signaling controllers (DSCs).

As networks move to all-IP, service providers need to manage the SIP signaling environment for soft MSCs, softswitches, CSCF servers and interconnect SBCs. Using the session routing proxies, this alleviates challenges associated with scaling and managing routing in a highly distributed architecture.

In both IMS and LTE, service providers face complex routing and interoperability challenges and as well as an extensive mesh of Diameter connections that can negatively impact network scalability. DSCs simplify provisioning and routing of Diameter signaling and provide interoperability between vendors and elements.

In fact, today Acme Packet announced that one of our customers is embarking on this core network evolution. Telefónica Germany chose Acme Packet’s Net-Net Session Router and Net-Net Diameter Director to provide a comprehensive solution for SIP and Diameter routing. This next generation signaling core supports current fixed VoIP and 3G mobile network, as well as its future LTE network. The solution protects Telefónica Germany’s core IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and Diameter servers from overloads, assuring service availability, while solving incompatibility challenges between vendors and networks with programmable interworking features.

While we have multiple customers with Acme Packet’s SIP routing solutions, including Verizon Wireless to power its nationwide inter-domain routing, this is Acme Packet’s first announced customer across multiple dimensions:

  • First announced customer for Net-Net Diameter Director
  • First announced customer for new Net-Net 7000 platform series (launched in May 2012)
  • First announced customer deploying the entire Acme Packet next generation signaling core solution for SIP and Diameter

Telefónica Germany is a long-standing Acme Packet customer, having deployed our IMS service delivery and SIP interconnect solutions in its fixed line IMS network.

Globally, this transformation is just getting underway and as service providers continue to launch LTE and VoLTE, you’ll see more activity associated with putting a core network in place that addresses the unique challenges of the all-IP world.


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