|Issue:||North America 2006|
|Topic:||21st Century communications – standards and technologies for an interconnected world|
|Author:||John R. Janowiak|
|Organisation:||International Engineering Consortium (IEC)|
Mr John R. Janowiak is President of the International Engineering Consortium, a non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago. Through its educational conferences and technology exhibitions, the IEC links industry and academia and serves as a catalyst for progress in several high-tech industries. During his more than 20-year career with the Consortium he has held a number of leadership positions. In his current role, Mr Janowiak is responsible for executive and university relations; international market development; and technology transfer between industry and academia. In this capacity, Mr Janowiak is active with and serves as the IEC’s principal liaison to many information industry corporations and non-profit organizations.
The Information and Communication Technology revolution is the result of many factors, but few as important as the standardisation of key technologies. The widespread usage of the Internet was made possible by the Internet Protocol standardisation of digital traffic. IMS is just as revolutionary; it standardises the way communications systems of any sort can be built for the Internet. Similarly, the standardisation of WiFi and WiMAX wireless broadband technologies will facilitate their rapid spread, and rapidly falling network costs and consumer pricing.
The telecommunications industry is at an important crossroads. Indeed, is ‘telecommunications’ any longer an accurate way to describe the exciting range of entertainment, communications, and information services that are emerging? As new international standards for these services continue to be developed, the very nature of how we work, relax, inform and communicate with each other is changing significantly. New segments of society around the world are starting to enjoy and prosper from communications services that serve their specific needs. This development is the most important aspect of what all of us in this industry are working toward. The new wireless global community Wireless communications are an excellent example of how new international standards are enabling global prosperity and development. People in developing countries who have never had access to communication services are getting access to information resources and regional networks and their lives are improving. The key has been wireless and VoIP applications. Today, the relatively low cost of deploying telecommunications to underserved populations, and more effective alternatives for traffic backhaul and connectivity, has made wireless communications a key factor in the transformation of rural telecommunications in developing countries. No special training is required to use a cell phone, yet they help people find employment, coordinate business activities, report local emergencies, and connect remote areas with the larger national community. A network of cell phone equipped public health workers and farmers in Thailand, for example, works to monitor and contain outbreaks of potentially hazardous diseases and viruses, including bird flu, in real time. Here just simple cell phones, not sophisticated databases and monitoring technologies, have improved the lives and safety of traditionally underserved populations. The role of international standards in this process cannot be underestimated. The adoption of a global standard for broadband wireless local-area networks (WLAN), or WiFi, has served to further the prosperity of rural populations worldwide. For several reasons, wireless broadband is the only viable solution for delivering network connectivity in remote areas. The low cost of equipment and repairs, low administrative overheads, the ease of deployment in hard-to-serve areas and theft-proof infrastructure have made WiFi a key solution for broadband networks in rural regions. Like the cell phone, WiFi networks are transforming the way people live. In the 172,000-hectare Xixuaú-Xiparinã Ecological Reserve, 40 hours up the Amazon River from Manaus, groups such as the Amazon Association, an NGO based in Brazil and Italy, see the welfare of the native population as critical to the preservation of the rainforest. The association helped to fund and install a solar-powered wireless broadband network. The network gives the native population access to the Internet and such services as telemedicine, online education, and e-commerce opportunities. Connecting with the outside world is a tremendous psychological benefit for this group, which greatly advances their prospects for survival and cultural growth. The duplication of this sort of experience in remote areas of countries such as Brazil will help address a huge challenge such as the survival of the Amazon rainforest. Future wireless advances New standards for broadband wireless communications continue to improve the prospects for such social, economic, and political advancement. One standard in particular worth focusing on is the 802.16-2004 (WiMAX) standard for fixed, point-to-multipoint broadband wireless communications, and the related 802.11e standard for mobile WiMAX services. Unlike WLAN technology, which has a service radius of only several hundred feet, WiMAX networks serve areas up to 60 miles in diameter. This is wide enough to cover effectively an entire metropolitan area. It is anticipated that the more important markets for 802.16 networks will be in emerging countries such as China and Mexico, in which WiMAX is a cost-effective technology for providing ‘last mile’ broadband access connectivity (as opposed to DSL or fibre-based solutions). For countries such as Korea, in which there is a high demand for portable and mobile services, the mobile WiMAX standard (802.16e) is expected to be well received. The ability to deploy quickly and affordably wireless broadband service over metropolitan-size areas is an advance compared to WLAN-type networks. Consequently, many in the industry see WiMAX as a key enabler for next-generation broadband services in developing countries. Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to represent 41 per cent of the market for WiMAX services according to analysts at Senza-Fili Consulting. In many of these areas, wireless broadband solutions such as WiMAX will make the deployment of wireline infrastructure unnecessary for voice and Internet services. Indeed, WiMAX networks will bring the first voice and Internet service seen in numerous remote and rural areas. International standards such as WiMAX let any equipment manufacturer mass produce the components and devices needed for such technologies, which drives down overall system cost making the service more affordable to the end customer. In developing countries, this downward pricing is critical for deployment success and service adoption. This is perhaps the most important reason for the standardization of technology. Groups such as the WiMAX Forum help the industry to coordinate and advance such standard efforts. Other industry forums, such as the IEC’s WiMAX Global ComForum (10th-11th October 2006 in Paris), bring together key leaders and technology innovators. The forums help drive new thinking and are a key part in the process of developing and fostering new standards for broadband wireless communications. IMS convergence and connection Another vital area of standards development centres on the convergence of fixed and mobile networks. For the first time, telecom carriers see the possibility of delivering voice and data services anytime, anywhere, on any device – regardless of who owns the network, what kind of communication or entertainment application is in use, or whether the user is driving, walking, at work or at home. IP Multimedia Subsystem, or IMS, a new standard for next-generation network communications, is making the dream of services convergence possible. Leveraging existing Internet protocol (IP) standards, IMS provides a standardised basis for the development of any service provided via the Internet using any type of mobile or fixed network. IMS based systems include videoconferencing, multimedia messaging, voice-over-IP communications, e-commerce, collaborative teleworking and any other that utilizes the Internet. By coordinating and enabling the delivery of IP applications and services across all varieties of networks, IMS promises to take telecom to the next level. The widespread penetration and usage of the Internet is due to the adoption of IP (Internet Protocol) as the underlying standard for interconnecting networks. Telcos look to IMS as the common standard that will let them deliver services over the Internet to a growing array of IP-addressable devices. IMS makes it possible to connect TVs, appliances, refrigerators, cars, wristwatches, PDAs, game consoles and cell phones, among many others, via the Internet. The drive to clarify and articulate the IMS standard is one of the most important projects in the communications industry today. Key IMS advantages include: • Liberating the core network from the vagaries of the access network; • Integrated mobility for all applications and services; • Faster deployment of innovative services and applications; • Lower operational costs due to standard, open, network architectures; • The ability to combine and mix services for exciting new applications; • A secure, stable, scalable, and redundant network architecture. Current, circuit-switched network will eventually migrate to packet-switched, IP network which accommodates all services – including voice, video, and data. Key standards groups around the world are eager for the network to migrate toward a single, standard, IP-centric topology. Groups such as the Telecoms & Internet converged Services & Pro-tocols for Advanced Networks (TISPAN), the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) all see IMS as the key reference point in guiding this network evolution. The International Engineering Consortium also recognizes the importance of IMS in catalysing positive change in communications networks; IMS will be a key topic at the IEC’s Broadband World Forum Americas, to be held this September in Vancouver. Reaching for the future Before the Internet became what it is today, there was an obscure standard called ‘Internet Protocol’ (IP). Only when IP was adopted and put in place did it become evident how far-reaching and deep the Internet’s impact would be on society, economics, education, and government. The rich services enabled by IMS have the same capacity to impact society. As a standard, IMS has the same potential for positive social change as IP. Today, as a focal-point international effort, IMS development is critical. Similarly, international wireless standards such as WiFi and WiMAX are changing the way we communicate, work, inform, and entertain ourselves. The key to progress has always been the standardisation of the technologies; this makes economies of scale possible for the producer and helps cut prices for the consumer. Creating and implementing these powerful standards involves bringing together all interested industry parties for discussion and perspective sharing. Uniting the industry around common objectives is the purpose of the International Engineering Con-sortium, among other bodies; it is through this dialogue that we will conceive and realize the pervasive communications systems of the 21st Century.