Home Latin America II 2003 The Leading Edge in Network Convergence: What Should We Plan For?

The Leading Edge in Network Convergence: What Should We Plan For?

by david.nunes
Krishan SabnaniIssue:Latin America II 2003
Article no.:9
Topic:The Leading Edge in Network Convergence: What Should We Plan For?
Author:Krishan Sabnani
Title:Senior Vice President Networking Research
Organisation:Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs
PDF size:116KB

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Article abstract

In the future, we will have high-speed data and voice access, wherever we happen to be, over a mostly IP/packet-based network. Adaptive client terminals and servers will permit users to roam seamlessly across multiple networks with different technologies – LANs, WLANs, WiFi, or 3G cellular. Many user-friendly applications will be available. To control access, security, billing, and such, user data will either be stored in the terminal’s SIM card or be accessible to network devices from a worldwide-distributed database.

Full Article

Perhaps you’re a businessman based in Santiago, travelling with your family through Europe. An important deal will close while yo5re on holiday, and you need to know that your office can reach you anytime, anywhere. Or you’re a paramedic at the scene of an accident. The victim you’re tending to exhibits unfamiliar symptoms, and you need answers quickly. Or maybe you’re a parent. Your 18-year-old daughter is travelling with friends on the other side of the continent. She runs out of money and can’t pay her hotel bill. She needs to reach you urgently. Even in today’s connected world, these and other communication scenarios challenge us. In our 24×7 global economy, distance, urgency, and the need to stay connected make us vulnerable. As connected as we are today, sometimes it’s just not enough. In the not-so-distant future even these challenges will become surmountable. In the next three to five years, capabilities such as global roaming, multimedia messaging services, and push-to-talk “walkie-talkie” connections on cellular networks should be commonplace, bringing us all closer together. And there are many more applications and services under development for this “converged” network scenario. The technologies being developed today will ensure that network access is always available, and everyone is always connected. We can expect to enjoy constant, high-speed business access that allows us to connect in the car, on a plane or on the road, just as effectively as we can at our desks. And our children will watch high-quality streaming movies on demand wirelessly as we drive down the highway on holiday. In many parts of the world, convergence is already happening. Service providers are rolling out unified networks that do it all – video, data, and voice services – and they’re seeing significant benefits such as simplified network management and maintenance, reduced operating expenses, easier evolution, and networks with greater reach. The question is, how do we get there? What steps need to be taken in order for this future vision to become reality? And what will our networks look like if we succeed? A Look at the Future Next generation wireless networks will provide always on, high-speed data and voice services over a mostly IP/packet-based network. Wireless providers have begun to seek ubiquitous, always-on coverage for their subscribers, and expect data throughput rates that only increase over time. They will rely on several different wireless technologies, in a heterogeneous environment that is already posing significant challenges as we think through our development of network infrastructure, services infrastructure, and the design of terminals that must support multiple technologies. True convergence of voice and data will likely happen first in the services and technologies we use to traverse the network. This is why we must look to develop hardware and software that can readily adapt to changing network dynamics; systems that easily manage and store client profiles; devices that are able to roam seamlessly across multiple networks; and more secure and reliable infrastructure. Technologies that solve each of these issues are in development today at research facilities, including Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs and other organizations, where scientists and engineers are all racing to explore and create the future of our global networks. Adaptive Clients and Servers In legacy telecommunications networks, intelligence is in the network servers. The client hardware – i.e. the telephones – typically has very little intelligence and can only perform predetermined network interactions and applications. By contrast, in data networks, the intelligence is distributed – both the computer terminal and the server share responsibility for providing services to the user. Adaptive clients and servers will bridge these two worlds, allowing clients and servers alike to exploit the capabilities of both the legacy and the new networks. These clients must be able to assume different personalities in different networks, varying the level of “intelligence” they need to be effective. The advent of more intelligent clients will allow terminals to run localized applications, either downloaded on demand or permanently resident in local memory. Developers will be able to build applications with full access to the network primitives for call control, text messaging, multimedia messaging, address book and personal profile settings. This will result in many applications being available with more user-friendly interfaces than are typically found today on mobile devices. The network servers will complement the enhanced client capability. Clients and servers will negotiate things like compression schemes and quality of service (QoS) requirements. These servers will adapt content and applications specifically geared to the client terminal and network channel being used. Application servers will be engineered for a distributed environment, allowing access to service provider applications as well as third-party applications. Finally, scalability to handle large numbers of transactions, security and near real-time response times will be key to providing subscribers with better user experiences than are provided today. Profile Management Cellular applications require user profiles that include such information as cell phone ID, user preferences, and authentication information. Traditionally, this information is stored in one or all of three different places: in a master cellular network information database known as the home location register (HLR); with the client, i.e., in the handset; or in network management databases. A new profile must be created for each user on every network he or she accesses, leading to multiple disparate profiles stored in various locations. There are two ways to deal with this. One is to create a superset of profiles on a smart card (sometimes known as a SIM card) that is housed in the client device. The client device would then project the data for each network-specific profile as needed. However, this can pose challenges such as lost, damaged or stolen SIM cards, not to mention that some cards don’t work interchangeably with all devices. The second method – which we happen to be focusing on in our work– is to create a server that stores a user’s profile in multiple locations and makes it available to whatever network and client device the user is connected through. This concept, known as Super Distributed HLR (SDHLR), stores one common profile database that contains everything from name and billing address to credit card information and authentication credentials. This technology enables users to roam freely between different service provider networks, enabling true global roaming. Not only could SDHLR be used to share a user’s profile with a mobile 3G network, but it could also make profile management easier when using 802.11 (or so called “Wi-Fi”) wireless hotspots. With SDHLR, our Santiago businessman vacationing in Europe could access whatever network is convenient – whether via his 3G phone on a mobile network, or in a coffee shop on a wireless local area network (LAN). And he could do this without having to waste time entering things like his billing information and passwords because his profile, which would be accessible on the network, would have that information. Connecting to Multiple Networks Today, for someone to stay connected at all times, client devices must be able to connect to a variety of network types – LANs, WLANs or 3G cellular networks. However, this is more complex than it sounds – there are multiple air interfaces to access, security frameworks to navigate and billing processes to complete. One way to solve this problem is through multi-interface mobility client software – software that enables a client device to interact with different types of networks as its user moves between them. This type of software automatically selects what network to use based on priority, the strength of the signal, and preset preferences as to what type of network to choose. For example, software now under development is attempting to streamline this very complex process. In the future, users will be able to move effortlessly across different types of networks without ever losing their connection. The software would do the job of bridging different networks, authenticating to them, and honoring roaming agreements so users wouldn’t need to know that they were bouncing from network to network. Everything would appear to be a seamless handoff of the connection from one technology to the other. Taking this concept another step further, 3G cellular technologies can be used to extend the coverage of Wi-Fi hotspots. One interesting example of this can provide a high-speed wireless Internet connection via a wide area of cellular network, even when that hotspot is on a bus or a train. It uses a high-speed cellular network to serve as a backhaul for the local hotspot even as that hotspot moves, and brings together two different wireless technologies to offer user’s wide-area wireless network access using the capabilities of 802.11 that will be embedded in most devices. Security Levels of security vary significantly between the world of telecommunications and that of packet-based data networks such as the Internet. Telecommunications clients have no access to the network infrastructure and use obscure, proprietary, protocols that keep them fairly secure. The Internet, by contrast, relies on open standards and is universally accessible. The challenge is to add security to the networking services as they move from the telecommunications world to the Internet world in a converged network environment. One way to obtain the benefits of network-based enhancements while minimizing security risks is currently being pursued within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). . This method works by encrypting data end-to-end, and trusts the service provider with only header information to identify and deliver data packets to the appropriate place. Reliability Future voice and converged networks will have a structure significantly different from today’s networks. Services and call control will be separated and spread across many distributed elements, with most features being implemented on dedicated application servers. For successful deployment, carriers will have to address issues such as reliability, end-to-end delay, manageability, availability, and ease of deployment in this context. As more and more service-intelligent applications are added to the networks, it will become increasingly important for carriers to be able to orchestrate the interaction of these applications. Building a Solid Foundation While vital to the success of network convergence, these and other emerging technologies and architectures are in many ways just the icing on the cake. Infrastructure is the key, and equipment vendors are investing now to build the necessary networking products required. It’s clear that the foundation of that infrastructure should be an optical core network. Optical networks provide very high bandwidth, and technologies are now in development that will further increase the flexibility of the optical core. The next area of focus is to continue to improve broadband access to the home. In different parts of the world, we are likely to see several different broadband access options deployed. This includes DSL, cable, fiber to the home, as well as high-speed mobile data wireless solutions. In the wireless space, data rates are increasing at a furious rate – today’s fastest 3G networks offer peak data rates of up to 2.5 Mbps – but in the not too distant future, Multiple Input/Multiple Output antenna technologies could bring those speeds closer to 20 Mbps. In some countries, where brand new networks are being deployed – countries such as India and China – service providers are focusing on building out Wireless Local Loop (WLL) networks to provide basic cellular service with some data applications already built in. This type of investment would be particularly beneficial to Latin American providers who are building out new wireless networks, for it would enable the service providers to offer basic service even in remote and mountainous areas. Some data services would be available right away, as it is possible even today, for example, to get some Internet access over a cell phone, and service providers can offer additional data services as the technology becomes more and more mature. Conclusion Service providers in Latin American have a unique opportunity. In building out their network infrastructures, they can take advantage of the latest technologies to provide economical coverage to their users, with built-in flexibility to add on future capabilities. We know what’s coming – we are building it today. By building out using the latest infrastructure, you can be ready to offer the cutting edge services being developed in research labs around the world. Network convergence, always-on high speed wireless, optical networking, broadband access to the home – these are just samples of the exciting developments that have started to take shape in the industry and will continue to be advanced at a rapid pace over the next few years.

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