The strategic partnership of Iskratel and Telekom Slovenije has already become a good example of mutual collaboration between a technologically leading network equipment vendor and a progressively oriented telco operator. Uros Jenko explains that both sides have participated in making the Slovenian telecommunication infrastructure capable of delivering the most demanding telecommunication and multimedia services
The synergetic effect of cooperation between Iskratel and Telekom Slovenije has placed Slovenia among the European countries with the most advanced telecommunication network. The benefits of collaboration have already spilled wide beyond the communication area. Nearly ten years of intensive nation-wide broadband deployment have given Slovenian residential and business subscribers the ability to intensively integrate themselves into the elite sphere of global information, economy and knowledge society. This brief overview will present the most important past, present and future stages of broadband access expansion throughout Slovenia as performed by Iskratel and Telekom Slovenije. Recently started nationwide project of FTTH deployment is the grand finale of a long and intensive work on assuring the broadband connection in every Slovenian home.
The end of the nineties was a DSL connection expectation time. Dial-up web access was becoming inadequate for a significant share of subscribers. The broadband era has stared to gain momentum. Early adopters have already begun with first pilot projects and field deployments. Telekom Slovenije was, together with Iskratel, among the first operators in Europe to offer ADSL connections based on Iskratel DSLAMs at nationwide scale. The first period of broadband access penetration throughout Slovenia has culminated with the introduction of IPTV channel distribution in 2003. Iskratel enabled Telekom Slovenije to offer IPTV using ADSL access technology at the very beginning of European commercial IPTV over DSL deployments. Right after Italian Fastweb, Telekom Slovenije was the second European provider using the IPTV over DSL technology!
IPTV has begun gaining more and more popularity as it became obvious that ATM based access infrastructure expansions are too costly.
Telekom Slovenije hasn't waited long to begin the migration from ATM-based access systems to Ethernet based nodes. At the time, Iskratel already had the answer for the changed access technology foundation. The company presented its first completely IP-based access node, the SI2000 IP DSLAM, in autumn of 2004.
The Iskratel SI2000 IP BAN - Broadband Access Node (IP-DSLAM) was a major technological and sales hit at that time. In contrast to majority of world class vendors at that time who were still offering their DSLAMs' on bandwidth limited ATM platforms and Ethernet instead of ATM uplink network ports, Iskratel decided for a completely Ethernet based open platform. The SI2000 IP BAN served Iskratel as an entry ticket for the elite group of vendors that were capable to offer IP-based access systems, ready to realize the concept of Triple Play service delivery.
The migration from ATM to IP access systems has proved itself to be the optimal solution for both sides. Iskratel has gained a foundation for a successful universal product platform that is now used for the SI3000 MSAN Multi-Service Access Node which serves as a truly universal network access element. It provides FTTH, VDSL2, WiMax, Ethernet, POTS and ADSL2+ subscriber interfaces. The SI3000 MSAN has become a field proven Triple-Play network access and aggregation product with industry unmatched modularity and feature richness. Telekom Slovenije has simultaneously saved a significant amount of expenses on the broadband aggregation network and built a solid base for the following network enhancement steps.
Fast all-European deployment of DSL access equipment and the growth of broadband equipment market have resulted in enlarged vendor involvement and consequently harsh competitive environment on Slovenian market. In 2005, Iskratel has outcompeted other vendors by offering a complete end-to-end access solution for service operator that was technologically superior compared to competition. It was a clear decision for Telekom Slovenije to choose a provider with a stable and solid system that included adequate CO and CPE equipment.
At the same time, Iskratel managed to include the option to offer POTS narrowband subscriber interface on the same platform. SI3000 MSAN has become a fully mature universal access product. The global orientation in the field of network access was clear - IP/Ethernet-based universal access platforms with as wide range of user interfaces as possible, available on the same HW platform.
As an active member of the DSL Forum, international association of DSL equipment vendors, Iskratel strived to develop the network elements in accordance with forum's TR-101 recommendations. Market and technology leading position was a logical consequence of company's successful efforts.
Quite soon, DSL access technology have become regarded merely as a "step between". ADSL2+ with its up to 24 Mbps transfer speed on good local loops still suffices for the majority of subscribers at present time. Its limitations are more clearly visible in rural or semi-rural areas with longer subscriber loops and lines of sometimes poor quality. Quality also decreases with growing number of subscribers. In such cases, the speed mostly reaches 10 Mbps.
The released Iskratel VDSL2 blade for SI3000 MSAN has opened an opportunity to enhance capabilities of Telekom Slovenije's access network. However, in autumn of 2006, the operator decided that VDSL2 with its limited reach and serious sensitivity for line quality is not going to be deployed as a mainstream broadband subscriber interface . The use of multiple remote outdoor units that would shorten the VDSL subscriber loops was replaced with a strategic decision for mass optical access deployment beginning in late 2007 and 2008.
Simultaneous development of VDSL2 anf FTTH CPE equipment was following the progress made on access node subscriber blades. Iskratel assured all the available L2 and L3 functionalities, necessary for proper network performance, and managed to preserve the service delivery model in combination with possibility for a seamless, evolutional way of equipment upgrades. Telekom Slovenije was thus allowed to expand its access network capacity in a gradual, future proof manner, using the foundation deployed with Ethernet aggregation network.
FTTH was accepted as the ultimate solution for the end user access dilemma. The project, named F2 is Europe's first all-national commercial FTTH deployment project led by an incumbent service provider. Its goal is to provide optical access to more than 100,000 subscribers by the end of 2008 and to nearly 70 per cent of Slovenian households by 2015.
The access network is constructed with network elements which are members of Iskratel SI3000 MSAP access product family. The SI3000 Fibre Access is designed on the same platform (same shelves, central Ethernet switch and management) as the SI3000 DSL Access (the rebranded SI2000 IP BAN), which is already widely deployed in the access network of Telekom Slovenije.
Why Ethernet P2P fibre architecture? Telekom Slovenije has chosen the point-to-point optical fibre architecture to ensure a future proof advanced delivery of broadband services - richest multimedia, fastest data transfers and superior voice quality - to each subscriber. The Ethernet P2P fibre architecture makes it possible to offer Fast- and Gigabit-Ethernet connectivity to each subscriber using standard and widely available network equipment.
Uros Jenko is Product Marketing Manager, Iskratel