|Topic:||High-performance broadband – thinking beyond the pipe|
|Title:||Technical Director Wireline Networks, Business Unit Systems|
Peter Linder is Technical Director for Wireline Networks at Ericsson. His role covers Broadband Access, IP Softswitching for Telephony and Multimedia applications as well as the installed base of AXE. Before his current position, he was Technical Director for Broadband access and held several managerial positions in the broadband access area covering products such as DSL, LMDS, HFC and fibre Ethernet access. He also served as Vice President of Marketing for the Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance. Mr Linder is a frequent speaker at various Broadband industry events, with international appearances at the Broadband World Forum (Seoul & Venice), Voice-on-the-Net (Boston), xDSL Summit (Nice), 21 Century Communications World Forum (London), VON Spring (San Jose), VON Europe (Stockholm), Broadband World Forum Asia (Yokohama) and SuperComm (Chicago). Peter Linder was graduated from Chalmers Institute of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1991 with MSc in Electrical Engineering, as well as an MBA in International Business Management.
Broadband means more to operators than faster Internet access. It is, in truth, an essential ingredient in their strategies for long-term survival. High performance broadband is not only to deliver new revenue generating services such as triple play voice, Internet and TV and advanced interactive and personalised services, but to provide lower cost, higher quality, competitive, IP telephony services. It will also provide systems to tie together the many residential digital devices proliferating in kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.
One of the least understood developments in today’s telecom world is the transformation of broadband beyond Internet connectivity. This may seem curious, since everybody wants it and we see an enormous surge in demand from households and offices. We need to broaden the Internet paradigm, because providing high-capacity connections will not be enough. In face of the challenges ahead for wireline operators, it is extremely important to start thinking of broadband not just in terms of ‘more means better’. The wireline business is now entering a new phase where it is performance that counts. Tomorrow’s broadband is not just for web surfing and IP transport. Operators see high-performance broadband as a way to continue to be competitive. What is high-performance broadband? It is about adding value to grab a stake in the new business opportunities that flow from the development of media and communication services, instead of getting stuck in the bit transport trap. Take household water as an analogy. Ordinary tap water is good for taking a shower, cooking or drinking, but if processed into sparkling water, soft drinks and such it can be labelled and marketed at much higher prices. However, it can no longer be distributed through pipes. Today’s basic high-capacity bit pipe does not provide users with much added value, but, unlike water, it can be upgraded to distribute the new, advanced, services that require greater performance and capability from the broadband connection. This gives today’s operators many new opportunities since high- performance broadband networks conserve the unique characteristics of the new services and can deliver them to the right devices. Besides speed, the new networks must be able to control bit-error rates, latency and latency variations, important for high quality gaming and real-time applications such as IPTV and must deliver the reliable and secure connections, vital for triple play voice, Internet and TV over the same connection. This is a far cry from today’s ‘best effort’ Internet connections. Increased capacity is important, but without a corresponding increase in quality of service, it cannot be sold. Provisioning is an important capability of high-performance broadband as is the ability to keep track of individual usage and charges for end user-driven, dynamically changing, portfolios of services. These will add new dimensions to the operators’ interaction with consumers. So, if not web-surfing, what services will drive wireline revenues? There is no universal recommendation, no unique silver bullet. From a global perspective, it’s obvious how much consumer taste and preferences differ between markets, cultures and age groups. Triple play is just dipping its toe in the water, still trying to find the right mix of services to bundle. Operators are bundling existing services to retain their customers, because a broadband customer lost now will be virtually impossible to win back later. The challenge is to ensure that any service, including tomorrow’s, can be delivered to anyone and bundled to suit a wide range of consumer preferences. It is not the services that trigger broadband development. It is the growing number of digital devices in our households, and the synergies that will increase their value when they are connected. Just look at game consoles and iPods spur completely new ways of using networks. Service delivery The ‘everything must be free’ scare, another product of the Internet paradigm, is limiting what we deliver. Consumers will pay if the value is there. DHL delivers packages despite cheaper alternatives because people pay for performance and security. It is possible to move from a free to fee paradigm for service delivery and advanced broadband connections will play a key role creating the required value. Digital devices abound in the modern home. Automated appliances in the kitchen, digital washing machines, climate control and security systems function alongside traditional phones, TVs, PCs, cameras, video equipment and the like. If these could be simply connected to the home network, operators could launch new services for such devices, and many others not yet invented. Operators must provide home gateways prepared to handle the expanded services. WLAN and Ethernet are standardised, broadly accepted, interfaces suitable for a home network and can serve as a gateway to the public network, the natural host of security, and other functions that can be managed by the access operator. What does an intelligent position for growth look like? At this stage of market development, there are three distinct and strategic initiatives for wireline operators to consider: First Shift to IP/Ethernet broadband access architectures. New IP/Ethernet-centric access nodes are designed to provide cost efficient capacity and capabilities. The transition to IP/Ethernet-based access started with the adoption of IP-DSLAMs (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) at central offices and with FTT-building deployments for multi-dwelling buildings. This transition is now affecting other node segments, for example Multi-Service Access Nodes, Fibre-to-the-Neighbourhood or Curb and Fixed Wireless Broadband applications. Second Use IP to modernise telephony. It is quite a challenge to migrate to IP while retaining full compatibility with existing services and terminals and without losing any of the features and qualities of circuit-switched telephony. A case in point is British Telecom’s 21st Century Network, the first attempt to transform a national telephony network to IP. The project’s objective is to lower basic telephony operational costs without any noticeable difference to customers. Transforming telephony services to IP, also referred to as telephony emulation, is calls for softswitches to replace the current hardware. Softswitches connect to existing circuit-switched access nodes through media gateways or directly to IP-Multi Service Access Nodes. Third Lay the foundation for tomorrow’s communication services, by introducing IP Multi-Media Subsystem (IMS)-based systems and services. IMS-based services can connect to whatever communications device is most convenient to the user at the moment, be it a PC, laptop, mobile phone or TV. Consumers do not want to keep a list of different numbers or addresses to contact someone, making a call should be simple and independent of the type of communication services or devices used. New communications services will flexibly, dynamically, change the communication format between voice, data, pictures and video, during a call and, instead of being restricted as they are today to one type of network or device, will cut across network and device boundaries so that communication between different device types can be become a reality. With this in place, the ability to use converged multimedia communication opens up a host of new ‘richer communication’ services including talking and simultaneously sharing a picture or image with the person called. It can also mean ‘push-to-talk’, buddy-lists, presence and availability as added qualities to your communication. Another added value growth area is the media, TV being the prime example. We can also expect a wide range of new interactive and personalised services. Broadband used to be simple, but as the market broadens, operators need a bigger portfolio of solutions to connect their customers. They need DSL for short local loops, for small house areas, fibre for new real estate and multi-dwelling units, and wireless for rural areas. The implications of the transition from single service Internet access over ATM-based architectures to IP/Ethernet architecture for multiple services have become evident over the past two years. Equipment suppliers are working closely with operators to identify the optimal transition paths to the new architectures. No one today questions that operators need to migrate to the new architecture and there is a growing realisation that a fast transition will yield much better long-term profitability than extending the life of the old architecture.