|Latin America 2006
|IP re-inventing communications
|Ping-an (Alex) Zhang
|Huawei Technologies, Brazil
Ping-an Zhang is the President of Huawei Technologies in Brazil. Prior to his current role, he worked as Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Huawei Technologies. Mr Zhang, an expert in the area of optical networking, also served as the President of Huawei Technologies’ Optical Product Line. Mr Zhang joined Huawei’s Research and Development Department, responsible for the Optical Networking Division, right after his graduation from Zhe Jiang University, China, with a Master’s Degree in Communications and System.
With IP, Internet Protocol, any sort of device-be it a PC, telephone, mobile phone, TV, even refrigerators and air-conditioners – can be connected and communicate with each other through a single, unified network. When Everything over IP, EoIP, arrives, traditional broadcasting will be replaced over time with on-demand programming, e-commerce will simplify purchases, ‘distance learning’ programmes will enhance educational opportunities, low-cost video conferencing will reduce the need for business travel, and on-line health monitoring will prolong the lives of many.
It is interesting to highlight how small things can change the world we live in and how we can establish relationships between them. That is exactly how IP, Internet Protocol is influencing our lives and changing current business models. Networks were initially created using proprietary and incompatible protocols; most were restricted only to the military and certain research centres, but were not yet shared or used by big companies. Universities also started to adopt networks as an efficient way to communicate among their researchers. Thanks to EoIP, Everything over IP, any sort of device – be it a PC, telephone, mobile phone, TV, even refrigerators and air-conditioners – can be connected through a single, unified network, so they can communicate with each other. This makes it easy for a user to control each device with one terminal. In addition, with EoIP, data, image and voice can be transferred through a single network rather than through the lines of three separate networks for cable TV, voice and data. With the popularization of the Internet, an explosion occurred in the appearance of new services and opportunities. The growth of the Internet has stimulated a wave of creativity and development based on the Internet Protocol (IP). This, in turn, has increasingly encouraged the convergence of all information and communication services. Indeed, the tendency is to put everything over IP. Everything over IP, EoIP, means everything – education, healthcare, public safety, social, residential and entertainment services, e-commerce, video, data, voice, refrigerators, washing machines and doorknobs. One protocol and one great interconnected network will tie everything together. The way in which services are offered today over the Internet will undergo significant evolution. New, more powerful equipment will let carriers provide services bundles and applications with full mobility. The convergence of fixed and mobile networks, together with a wide variety of different payment models-such as pre-paid, flat fees or monthly service-based fees and flexible credit arrangements will give subscribers access in accordance – with their needs and ability to pay. In the future, a variety of services will be bundled in accordance with the subscriber’s needs and paid for together in a single package; charges based on pulses or minutes are likely to disappear. Traditional, unidirectional broadcasting will, for the most part, tend to disappear over time. Television programming will be available in real time – on demand – through IP. Telephone operating companies will offer IPTV with Video on Demand services, VoD, so customers can select the programming that they want to see when they want to see it – and pay only for what they really need and want. IPTV will allow customers to interact with sellers to acquire new products, solutions and services. Subscribers will be able to pay for what they buy via interactive TV through the same monthly bill from their service provider, together with their payments for their voice, data and video services. E-commerce will simplify the purchase of a wide variety of goods. The purchase and sale of goods and services over the Internet will become more and more common in the coming years and just about everything – supermarket food purchases, clothing, automobiles, jewellery, tools, and a multitude of services – will be available at a price or through auctions on the web. This will not only save the customer’s time and money, it will stimulate new types of businesses and web services, lower the seller’s costs and, by facilitating competition, reduce prices, increase quality and increase choice. Customers with IP access through mobile phones will be able to use these services as well, from wherever they may be. IP-driven on-line ‘distance learning’ programmes will also enhance educational opportunities. Institutions with geographically dispersed facilities will, using IP-based communications, maximize the use of scarce, valuable, teaching resources, reduce costs and reach a far wider range of students. A professor in Rio de Janeiro, for example, might simultaneously lecture students located in Ipanema, Portugal, Piauí and Angola without leaving his classroom/TV studio. Using IP, this integration of geographically dispersed classrooms can take place in real time and include interactivity between speakers and participants. Meetings between employees of a company at many different locations can take place, without travel using IP video conferencing. Nowadays, using services such as Skype, the participants need very little other than web-cams for a video conference. Using Skype, no-cost video conferences between people throughout the world are quickly becoming routine. For healthcare, IP-based systems make cost-effective real time remote diagnosis and monitoring possible. Heart monitoring equipment can, for example, periodically – or instantly, in the case of emergencies – transmit patient data through the Internet to a patient’s doctor wherever he may be, improving both follow-up treatment and emergency response. When the monitors detect a potential problem, the monitor automatically alerts a medical emergency centre, which can immediately dispatch an ambulance to the patient – at times, even before the heart attack has begun. Moreover, top-level surgical specialists at distant locations, using video over IP, can remotely accompany the progress of a local surgeon performing a difficult operation and advise him as needed. Doctors will be able to create virtual medical centres, and help patients wherever they may be using video enabled phones. Doctors will use IP connections from their offices or mobile phones to access their patients’ files stored at medical centre database servers, wherever and whenever needed, to provide assistance. The massive deployment of cameras in many cities already lets police security centres remotely monitor a great number of critical public areas inside cities. Cameras linked by IP to private security firms provide surveillance of residential areas and enterprise facilities. In the event of an occurrence, the appropriate authorities can be rapidly alerted and guided to the scene to take whatever action is called for. End-users with IP cameras, a broadband connection to the Internet, and click-to-dial or push-to-talk services, will be able to reach and interact quickly with police and fire stations that will automatically be advised of the caller’s location to speed emergency response. To reach friends and family we will soon be able to call them individually, simultaneously, sequentially, in groups or according to a specific schedule no matter where they may be. Personal multimedia monitoring services will let users remotely monitor their home, their vacation homes, their children or their offices – wherever they have IP cameras installed – from wherever they may be, even from their mobile phones. With the ‘multiple numbers for one phone service’, each member of a family can have a personal ‘virtual number’, that rings only one specific, physical, telephone extension. This, in effect, gives each family member his or her own personal phone number. Colour Ring Back Tone Service allows users to select specific media to play back to the calling parties, replacing the traditional- disturbing -ringing tone they usually hear. Users of soft-phones – software that emulates a telephone on a computer – can also set the Multimedia Ring Back Tone (MRBT) service and assign a small, entertaining, video clip to play back to the caller. Digital home gateways will provide access to conventional or IP telephones as well as to IPTV set-top boxes (STB) that will connect conventional TVs to the IP world. As all these devices communicating over IP are integrated by the home gateway, it is possible to share information among them. It would, for example, be possible to answer a call through the television or listen to music stored in the PC through the living room’s home theatre. With IP video cameras, we can remotely observe what our children are doing, or check what is happening in our home garage through a cell phone. Entertainment fans will also enjoy playing games accessible through gaming portals on the Internet. Several players will be able to play tri-dimensional – even educational – games of all types over the web. By accessing these portals through the Internet, users will be able to play their favourite games with other players from around the world or even participate in global championships. Moreover, high-quality media content such as movies, video clips, photos and all types of music is becoming increasingly available on the Internet for sharing. The corporate customers of service providers and operators with IP-based networks will also be able to take advantage of value-added services such as wide-area Centrex. Wide-area Centrex provides companies with several geographically dispersed branch offices with a sort of virtual company PBX. This service lets customers and suppliers call a single number to reach any of the company’s installations – wherever they may be. Since this service is based upon the service provider’s infrastructure, the companies that use this service do not need to invest in equipment, operation or maintenance of the service. The ability of an IP-based network to integrate voice, image and text in a single call, makes a series of rich services available, including file sharing during a call, seamless integration with mobile networks and push-to-talk, among many others, to improve the operational efficiency of corporate customers. The adoption of Internet usage by governments and their agencies can greatly improve the availability of important social services for population. It can bring improved healthcare and education, facilitate the interaction of citizens to obtain information, speed the emission of important documents through government web portals and help citizens obtain services otherwise available only at distant government centres. By using IP, carriers will be able to simplify their network architectures and considerably reduce their operating costs. The convergence of fixed and mobile networks made possible by IP will also help carriers offer more and better services, increase their revenues and build customer loyalty. As the use of IP grows, we come closer to the day when every thing goes over IP – a true everything over IP, EoIP, age.