|Topic:||IP – the new universal language for communication networks|
|Title:||Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning|
Thomas Mock is currently Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning for Ciena Corporation. In this role, he is responsible for defining Ciena’s LightWorks Architecture and supporting product definition, requirements, strategy and marketing of Ciena’s portfolio of networking solutions. Before assuming this position, Mr Mock served as the Company’s Vice President of Portfolio Management and previously as Senior Director of Product Management. He was also Product Marketing Director for Ciena’s Short Haul and Access product lines. Mr Mock joined Ciena as the International Product Marketing Manager. Before Ciena, he managed the product development organisation for a T1 multiplexer company. Thomas Mock received his BSEE from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
As traditional voice services shift to VoIP and broadcast television toward IPTV, the migration to IP is changing the face of all communications. By 2009, nearly every phone call made in the UK will be over IP. An IP-based infrastructure, in addition to lower cost calling, provides many other advantages than worldwide telephone number portability. There are 11 million people globally using VoIP – twice those nine months ago – and an increasing number of operators and service providers support these services.
The turbulence in the telecommunications industry in recent years has been dramatic. Despite the challenging market environment, technologies have continued to develop at an astonishing pace, and the persistent growth of broadband services has driven a shift in network infrastructure. As businesses progress to keep up with the market and new services, companies like BT with its 21st Century Network are positioning Internet Protocol (IP) to become the universal language for telecommunications. IP enables the convergence of voice, data and video services onto a single network. As traditional voice services shift to Voice over IP and broadcast television toward IPTV, the migration to IP is changing the interface of communications for all users, from businesses to government to consumers. The rise in deployments of IP networks has led to some predictions that by 2009 nearly every phone call made in the UK will be over IP. Growth in communications technology, attributed to the Internet and advanced services like broadband, is leading the market to hunger for faster connection speeds, greater bandwidth and additional services such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP), IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) and Video on Demand (VOD). As the adoption of these new services and other applications rises, so does bandwidth consumption. The older ‘legacy’ systems, designed when voice traffic and revenue predominated, not based on IP technology, are struggling to keep up with the services users demand. In response, service providers are employing IP, originally created as a method for best-effort communication between computers, support more efficiently and reliably to the mounting number of diverse telephony, television and mission-critical business applications. Migrating to IP does not mean a complete change in a carrier’s service portfolio. They will still need to offer the same old telephony services they have always provided. Unlike the television broadcasting standard, which will switchover to digital broadcasting by government decree by December 2012, carriers and service providers cannot force their customers to change their voice services. Businesses and residential customers alike purchase voice service based upon cost, performance and/or customer service. In essence, the migration to IP lets end users receive their current services, but gives them the option to use new advanced offerings from their suppliers, no matter how they are connected to the network. Maintaining traditional services as they turn off parts of their network to build new infrastructure is a huge undertaking for the carriers. By migrating to IP, operators can upgrade their networks to handle advanced services whilst maintaining, with no difference for the end use, traditional voice services. IP provides a foundation for a common infrastructure for all communications, thereby improving efficiency and access. Driven by market demand for new services and applications, IP now provides a low-cost, friendly means for carrying multiple traffic types for a variety of services. It is a technology, which, for once, the communications sector and the end user are wholly embracing, and one that will essentially revolutionise the way we communicate. The move to Ethernet As part of the move to IP infrastructure, service providers are also capitalizing on Ethernet, a cost-efficient technology originally developed to connect data networking equipment within a local area network (LAN). Network operators have discovered that a combination of IP and Ethernet technologies provides easier connectivity and cost efficiencies. Ethernet’s beauty is not just its price, but also its ability to deliver speeds up to 10 Gbps. Service providers are using Ethernet to provide high-speed connectivity to their customers and, regardless of the existing underlying architecture, in virtually every portion of their networks. In such a diverse industry, with multiple standards for nearly every technology available, Ethernet provides stability. It is a technology universally understood by both IT staff and telecom service providers alike. This facilitates network migration and helps standardise solutions and open lines of communication from the outset. Critical to the service provider and both residential and business end-users, IP with Ethernet can provide reliability, speed and availability as good as, or better than, legacy networks. As a result, service providers enjoy meaningful cost savings and significant increases in network flexibility. This gives the end user greater varieties of services and packaging at lower prices. The benefits of IP The IP revolution offers many benefits to consumers and enterprises. IP lets businesses broaden their range of services and reduce costs. By substantially reducing the phone bill, purchasers become more inclined to take advantage of the available budget to add new services. Service providers, for their part, tend to offer a greater variety of bundled services. The security that IP can provide to enterprises is also important. Using IP-based virtual private networks (VPN), an enterprise can secure its intranet and extranet whilst bringing a new Web-centric ethos to the company. This is crucial for e-commerce, which is still greatly under-utilised by many organisations. An IP-based infrastructure gives business users practical benefits such as Voice over IP (VoIP). Using VoIP, the telephone number of the organisation becomes portable, so a business based in the United Kingdom can have a United States telephone number to save on long-distance expenses. Likewise, when an enterprise moves, it can keep its original number regardless of its new location. These benefits extend to residential users as well, thus allowing them to take their telephone numbers with them wherever they go. There are currently 11 million people worldwide using VoIP – a figure that has doubled in the past nine months, and an increasing number of operators and service providers are supporting these services. What comes next? At present, the UK communications industry is buzzing with BT’s recently announced 21st Century Network. BT, though, is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, to build an IP-centric network. Indeed, many new technologies implemented by large carriers have often been first tested and experimented with by smaller carriers or by research and education networks. The safety net under the IP push is that alternative carriers and cable companies worldwide have already proven its value and functionality, paving the way for incumbent service providers to head in the same direction. So, what will the industry and the end user see, or not, during the next few years? As with all new technologies, there will certainly be growing pains, many of which could be unforeseen. The evolution to IP began in the core network, and as it works its way out toward the network’s edge, the end-user will be the last to witness the change. The operators will bear the burden of implementing the transition of the physical infrastructure and enabling the delivery of new services, and if all goes as planned, the shift will be virtually invisible to the end user. Of course, the shift to IP and Ethernet will take some time. Most carriers are beginning to implement IP now, but slowly and at a relatively small scale. Although it will be some years before IP is fully in place worldwide, it is already recognised as the universal language for communications infrastructure and services. Looking ahead So, where are we now and where are we going with the IP revolution? It is evident that by implementing IP and Ethernet, we will see a marked improvement in cost-efficiencies and bandwidth availability, whilst service providers should also find it easier to turn a profit. Ultimately, the shift to IP will create more competition. Cable companies will strive to offer the same services as telecoms organisations and vice versa. New niche service providers will emerge and fight for market share. All of this could lead to even more regulatory debates over competition, but in the end, it will benefit the end user. As the market adapts to the new communication scenario, innovation and competition will thrive. IP will be the universal language and Ethernet will become the universal microphone for both the residential and enterprise users. Although there are great challenges ahead for incumbent service providers and equipment vendors alike, the industry and the users will benefit from IP.