|Issue:||Africa and the Middle East 2004|
|Topic:||Converged Services Networks – Next Generation Network Architecture|
|Title:||Director of Strategy|
|Organisation:||Motorola Infrastructure, EMEA|
Dr Laith Sadiq is director of strategy for Motorola’s Global Telecom Solutions Sector (GTSS) in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Before his current position, Dr Sadiq was Sales Director for GTSS Middle East. Before joining Motorola, Dr Sadiq held senior positions at Nortel. and British Telecom. Dr Sadiq holds a BSc in Communication, Computer and Information Services from the University of Manchester and a Masters and PhD in Telecommunications from Kings College, London.
To make convergence a valuable proposition for operators, the current network architecture needs to evolve. Current network architecture is not designed with convergence in mind and cannot deliver an optimal customer experience and cost structure. Given that operators have already made large investments in network infrastructure, the roadmap for the Next Generation architecture, which will support convergence, should incorporate a phased approach. Convergence is already happening in the home, office and outside world – but the ultimate convergence cannot happen without seamless mobility.
Operators in the emerging markets have experienced a high level of growth, but deregulation and increased competition will put pressure on price and retention, making it increasingly challenging for operators to maintain this growth. To overcome the potential negative impact of industry trends and to stimulate further growth, operators need to move into other environments, such as the home, office, mobile and hot spots, integrating their products and services. This is what we define as convergence. To execute convergence successfully operators need a network architecture that supports cost effective delivery of services with a differentiated customer experience. Next generation architecture In order to deal with the business drivers that make convergence a valuable proposition for operators, the current network architecture needs to evolve. The issue with operators’ current network architecture is that it was not designed with convergence in mind and cannot deliver an optimal customer experience and cost structure. Given that operators have already made large investments in network infrastructure, the roadmap for the Next Generation architecture, which will support convergence, should incorporate a phased approach. This will allow operators to overlay new network elements on top of the legacy network to minimise incremental investments and provide a flexible transition based on customer demand and funding availability. The business requirement Wireless and wireline operators already recognise that the move towards convergence will help them to capture a larger share of wallet and increase customer loyalty, it is not a new effort. However, until now, operators have been focusing mostly on front-end convergence, such as developing service bundles and marketing, whilst leveraging existing back-end infrastructure. Front-end convergence without the parallel back-end convergence does not provide the full value of convergence. The issue, from a technology standpoint, is that current network architectures were not developed with convergence in mind and they cannot deliver front-end convergence with the optimum customer experience and cost. Evolution towards the Next Generation Network (NGN) Architecture will enable back-end convergence of existing infrastructure, improve the customer experience and reduce the costs of front-end convergence. In addition, it will allow operators to create differentiated convergent offers and deliver a cost advantage direct to the customer. The NGN Architecture has been developed to meet the following six business drivers: Simple Migration and Investment Protection: Migration to the NGN architecture can be implemented as an overlay to existing network investment and its scalability allows for further technology evolution at minimum incremental cost. Operators migrating to and from the NGN architecture can base this on customer demand and funding availability whilst protecting existing network investment Multiple environments at the lowest cost: Customers can use the lowest cost technology available in whatever environment they find themselves, be that home, office, hot-spots or on the move. The NGN architecture can accommodate multiple access and core technologies, as well as the use of third parties’ networks in order to minimise costs. This will allow operators to not only reduce the cost of providing the service, improving margins; but also to serve a larger addressable market, enlarging their potential revenue base Mass market usability and common user experience: The NGN architecture will provide an end user interface that is simple for mass market use and which provides a common, seamless experience across multiple environments and services. The mass-market usability and common user experience will allow operators to stimulate take up, improving revenues and retention Quality of service (QoS) based on applications: With the NGN architecture, different services and applications (e.g. voice, video streaming, messaging, push-to-talk, video-conferencing, gaming, etc.) have sufficient dedicated network resources to ensure desired QoS. This can be adjusted, based on priority and the importance of applications, to allow operators to optimise network resource allocation, minimising costs and improving retention Personalisation and self-provisioning: Customers want to be able to choose their services and applications and personalise how these are delivered to them, wherever they are. By empowering customers to tailor their services and applications through the NGN architecture, operators will not only increase revenues and retention, but also minimise costs Multi-source of application: By being able to multi-source applications from existing third party developer communities, operators can expand their applications portfolio at a lower cost than in-house development or technology-specific application providers. The technology What drives the need for the NGN architecture from a business level determines what is required at a technology level. The NGN architecture can be represented by the overlay of these technology elements on top of the existing network layers (service, core, access) and end-user devices. The technology elements and their relationship with the business drivers, are as follows: Services Network independent application programme interfaces (APIs): A common set of APIs means that application providers do not need to rewrite applications for different access technologies and network providers. The access/network independent APIs will primarily support the demand for multi-sourced applications, as independent application providers will be more attracted to APIs that are ported to multiple access/networks. Also, the common APIs will allow application development costs to be spread over a larger user base Common Operational Support Systems/Business Support System (OSS/BSS) interface: By providing a common OSS/BSS interface, application providers do not have to rewrite applications to adapt to different interfaces. The common OSS/BSS interface will primarily support personalisation and choice, since application providers will have more controlled and secured access to the underlying OSS/BSS. Also, it will support an evolutionary path from current networks, preserving the existing OSS/BSS platforms. Core network Access-independent provisioning model and new network elements: Through a series of connectors to existing OSS/BSS in multiple networks operators can abstract existing and new network elements. The access-independent provisioning model and new network elements will support personalisation and choice since existing OSS/BSS will share a common open interface to access existing and new network elements. Multi-media service control: The multimedia service control will support service provision across different environments at reduced costs. This is due to significant OpEx (Operating Expense) and CapEx (Capital Expense) savings from consolidating the transport and switching infrastructure for voice, data and video. The multi-media service control will also support an evolutionary path from legacy networks, adapting to the existing transport infrastructure in the core network. Self-optimisation (core network): Switching in the core network is dynamically configured and optimised to route traffic to the lowest cost path at a desired QoS. Self-optimisation in the core network will support low cost service across different environments and tiered QoS based on applications. Mobility management (core network): The core network manages vertical hand-offs between access technologies and network providers delivering end-users a seamless experience across different environments. Mobility management in the core network will support low cost service across different environments and mass-market usability and common experience. Access network Self-optimisation (access network): The access network is dynamically configured and optimised to route traffic to the lowest cost path at a desired QoS. Self-optimisation in the access network will also support low cost service across different environments and tiered QoS. Mobility management (access network): The access network also manages vertical hand offs between access technologies and network providers delivering end-users a seamless connection across different environments. The mobility management in the access network will also support low-cost service across different environments and mass-market usability. Devices Device independent APIs: Application providers are not required to rewrite applications to adapt to different devices. The common APIs will also support low cost service across different environments since application development costs can be spread across a potentially larger device base. Multi-mode devices: Multi-mode handsets and devices will work across multiple wireless access technologies (e.g. 802.11 and cellular 2.5G/3G). Multi-mode devices will support low cost-to-service across different environments and tiered QoS. Multi-modal user interfaces (UIs): Multiple UIs, depending on the type of interaction, user preference, access technology and device, will optimise the user experience. Multi-modal UIs will support mass-market usability and common experience across environments as well as personalisation and choice. So far, we have discussed the high-level business requirements of the NGN architecture to enable back-end convergence and the technology elements that are necessary to realise these requirements. The following two scenarios illustrate how operators could move into a converged environment. Scenario A considers a mobile operator moving in to the home environment, while Scenario B considers a fixed operator moving into the mobile environment. Scenario A: A mobile operator moving into the home environment In this scenario we consider a mobile operator moving into the home with a landline displacement voice and data offering with different tiers of service. The voice component of the offer features landline equivalent voice service (with QoS and lifeline) or cellular grade service, while the data component features broadband or narrowband always-on access. The business driver for a mobile operator moving into the home can be mapped against the customer experience in buying, using and paying for the service. This is tied to operators’ requirements in acquiring and serving the customer and billing and providing them with care. Most importantly a mobile operator looking to move into the home will need to ensure it is providing competitive access costs and differentiation through seamless home-mobile environment service integration. The NGN architecture addresses the business requirements of mobile operators moving into the home, offering competitive costs and differentiated seamless voice and data services across the mobile and home environments. Scenario B: A fixed operator moving into the hot-spot and mobile environments In this scenario we consider a fixed operator moving into the hot-spot and mobile environments with portable and mobile voice and data services. Portable voice features landline-equivalent voice service, while mobile voice features cellular-grade voice service. Portable data features broadband access by leveraging public (owned or leased facilities) and private (e.g. enterprise) hotspots, while mobile data features narrowband to broadband access by leasing capacity from cellular network providers (GSM/GPRS, 1X, EDGE, SO/DV, WCDMA). The most important business driver for the fixed operator moving into the hot-spot and home environments is differentiation through seamless home-hotspot-mobile environment service integration. In summary, converged networks that integrate cellular networks enable wireline providers to offer their narrowband voice customers mobility in wide area and hot spot environments. In turn, wireless providers can offer their subscribers higher bandwidth multi-media services in the home and office. One device fits all Convergence is an exciting proposition – customers will experience a number of significant benefits that will no doubt boost their loyalty to the operator. The customer will only need a single device and have a single user-provider relationship, with the ability to personalise the services. The converged network will also enable customers to seamlessly use a diverse portfolio of applications whilst on the move anytime, anywhere at an affordable price. Leaders in wireless infrastructure and other broadband access technologies share with operators a common vision for convergence and a common understanding of the business requirements and technology elements of the converged network architecture. There is confidence that vendors are well positioned to support operators in the migration effort towards the converged architecture and full realisation of the value of convergence.