Features

Although smaller and quieter than in previous years, ITU Telecom World 2009 offered an opportunity for industry and governments from all round the globe to meet, and examine how ICT technologies can play their part in the development of societies and economies

Many said it would be a disaster. They said that without the big European and western manufacturers footing the bill then the event couldn't go ahead. No Nokia, no Ericsson, no Alcatel-Lucent, no show.

Well, despite the fact that at 18,000 visitors the event mustered only quarter of the attendees that came to the 2003 show in Geneva, ITU Telecom World 2009 felt like a success to many that were there as it took on a different tone from past shows. Others, though, found that business was slow and regretted their decision to attend.

The show lost its focus as a glossy showcase for the headline products of all the world's major manufacturers, and instead became a meeting point for those concerned with how best to plot the course of the development of all the world's markets.

So this time, the focus shifted to the southern and emerging markets. And the noise came not from the western manufacturers but from the Chinese vendors, and from Russia and the host of national pavilions that made up most of the show floor. There was also news around legislation and standardization from the ITU itself, to go with the focus on what ICT technologies can bring to the economies of nations across the world.

And there was debate too, whether it was warning from the head of the ITU on the need for vigilance in combating security threats in the IP sphere, or on standardization development, or the latest research on the state and size of the markets.

4.6 Billion Mobile Subscriptions and the broadband divide
The ITU's latest statistics, published in The World in 2009: ICT facts and figures, revealed rapid ICT growth in many world regions in everything from mobile cellular subscriptions to fixed and mobile broadband, and from TV to computer penetration - with mobile technology acting as a key driver.

The data, forecasts and analysis on the global ICT market showed that mobile growth is continuing unabated, with global mobile subscriptions expected to reach 4.6 billion by the end of the year, and mobile broadband subscriptions to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers in 2008.

Mobile technologies are making major inroads toward extending ICTs in developing countries, with a number of nations launching and commercially offering IMT2000/3G networks and services. But ITU's statistics also highlight important regional discrepancies, with mobile broadband penetration rates still low in many African countries and other developing nations.

More than a quarter of the world's population is online and using the Internet, as of 2009. Ever-increasing numbers are opting for high-speed Internet access, with fixed broadband subscriber numbers more than tripling from 150 million in 2004 to an estimated 500 million by the end of 2009.

Rapid high-speed Internet growth in the developed world contrasts starkly with the state of play in the developing world. In Africa, for example, there is only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1,000 inhabitants, compared with Europe where there are some 200 subscribers per 1,000 people. The relative price for ICT services (especially broadband) is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. The report finds that China has the world's largest fixed broadband market, overtaking its closest rival, the US, at the end of 2008.

ITU estimates show that three quarters of households now own a television set and over a quarter of people globally - some 1.9bn - now have access to a computer at home. This demonstrates the huge market potential in developing countries, where TV penetration is already high, for converged devices, as the mobile, television and Internet worlds collide.
Sami Al Basheer, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, said, "We are encouraged to see so much growth, but there is still a large digital divide and an impending broadband divide which needs to be addressed urgently."

New ITU standard opens doors for unified ‘smart home' network
The G.hn standard for wired home networking gained international approval at Telecom World, as the ITU approved a standard that it said will usher in a new era in ‘smart home' networking systems and applications.

Called ‘G.hn', the standard is intended to help service providers deploy new offerings, including High Definition TV (HDTV) and digital Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), more cost effectively. It will also provide a basis for consumer electronics manufacturers to network all types of home entertainment, home automation and home security products, and simplify consumers' purchasing and installation processes. Experts predict that the first chipsets employing G.hn will be available in early 2010.

G.hn-compliant devices will be capable of handling high-bandwidth rich multimedia content at speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s over household wiring options, including coaxial cable and standard phone and power lines. It will deliver many times the throughput of existing wireless and wired technologies.

Approval of the new standard will allow manufacturers of networked home devices to move forward with their R&D programmes and bring products to market more rapidly and with more confidence.

"G.hn is a technology that gives new use to the cabling most people already have in their homes. The remarkable array of applications that it will enable includes energy efficient smart appliances, home automation and telemedicine devices," said Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau.

The physical layer and architecture portion of the standard were approved by ITU-T Study Group 15 on October 9. The data link layer of the new standard is expected to garner final approval at the group's next meeting in May 2010.

The Home Grid Forum, a group set up to promote G.hn, is developing a certification programme together with the Broadband Forum that will aid semiconductor and systems manufacturers in building and bringing standards-compliant products to market, with products that fully conform to the G.hn standard bearing the HomeGrid-certified logo.
Also agreed at the recent ITU-T Study Group 15 meeting was a new standard that focuses on coexistence between G.hn-based products and those using other technologies. Known as G.9972, the standard describes the process by which G.hn devices will work with power line devices that use technologies such as IEEE P1901. In addition, experts say that they will develop extensions to G.hn to support SmartGrid applications.

Shake up the standardization landscape
Nineteen CTOs from some of the world's key ICT players called upon ITU to provide a lead in an overhaul of the global ICT standardization landscape.

The CTOs agreed on a set of recommendations and actions that will better address the evolving needs of a fast-moving industry; facilitate the launch of new products, services and applications; promote cost-effective solutions; combat climate change; and address the needs of developing countries regarding greater inclusion in standards development.
Participants reaffirmed the increasing importance of standards in the rapidly changing information society. Standards are the ‘universal language' that drives competitiveness by helping organizations optimize their efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and innovation, the CTOs agreed.

Malcolm Johnson, Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU, said, "There are many examples of successful standards collaboration, a fragile economic environment and an ICT ecosystem characterized by convergence makes it all the more important to streamline and clarify the standardization landscape. We have agreed on a number of concrete actions that will help us move towards this goal and strengthen understanding of standards' critical role in combating climate change, while better reflecting the needs of developing countries."

The standardization landscape has become complicated and fragmented, with hundreds of different industry forums and consortia. CTOs agreed that it has become increasingly tough to prioritise standardisation resources, and called on ITU - as the preeminent global standards body - to lead a review to clarify the standardization scenario.

ITU will host a web portal providing information on the interrelationship of standards and standards bodies, which would facilitate the work of industry and standards makers while promoting cooperation and collaboration and avoiding duplication.

War in cyberspace?
The next world war could take place in cyberspace, Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the ITU warned during the conference.

"The next world war could happen in cyberspace and that would be a catastrophe. We have to make sure that all countries understand that in that war, there is no such thing as a superpower," Hamadoun Toure said. "The best way to win a war is to avoid it in the first place," he added. "Loss of vital networks would quickly cripple any nation, and none is immune to cyberattack," said Toure.

Toure said that cyberattacks and crimes have also increased, referring to such attacks as the use of "phishing" tools to get hold of passwords to commit fraud, or attempts by hackers to bring down secure networks. Individual countries have started to respond by bolstering their defences.

US Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that she has received the green light to hire up to 1,000 cybersecurity experts to ramp up the United States' defenses against cyber threats.

South Korea has also announced plans to train 3,000 "cyber sheriffs" by next year to protect businesses after a spate of attacks on state and private websites.

Warning of the magnitude of cybercrimes and attacks, Carlos Solari, Alcatel-Lucent's vice-president on central quality, security and reliability, told an ITU forum that breaches in e-commerce are now already running to "hundreds of billions."

One high profile victim in recent years was Estonia, which suffered high profile cyber attacks on government websites and leading businesses in 2007. Estonian Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts said in Geneva that "adequate international cooperation" was essential. "If something happens on cyberspace it's a border crossing issue. We have to have horizontal cooperation globally," he added.

To meet this goal, 37 ITU member countries have joined forces in the International Multilateral Partnership against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), set up this year to "proactively track and defend against cyberthreats." Another 15 nations are holding advanced discussions, according to the ITU.

Experts say that a major problem is that the current software and web infrastructure has the same weaknesses as those produced two decades ago.

"The real problem is that we're putting on the market software that is as vulnerable as it was 20 years ago," said Cristine Hoepers, general manager at Brazilian National Computer Emergency Response Team.

Brands can play a huge part in customer retention strategies, but operators must have systems that are flexible enough to support the development of personalised and real-time customer offers

In the complex landscape of next-generation services, it is essential for wireless communications service providers (CSPs) not just to acquire new subscribers - using the most cost-effective methods - but to keep them as well. Reducing churn drives down costs and provides for a platform to build ARPU and boost margin. Accordingly, an increasingly important element in the process of attracting and retaining subscribers revolves around the application of customer relationship principles integrated with developing brand loyalty.

A truly sticky relationship between subscriber and CSP can be achieved when the subscriber recognises and develops a personal association with key elements of the CPSs brand - be it quality, unique content, unique handset offers, ease-of-use or even customer service excellence. Witness the response to the loss of O2's iPhone exclusivity in the UK; the news of Orange's iPhone deal followed 24 hours later by Vodafone's intention to enter the iPhone market, was BBC Technology's online news site's most widely read story over the 24 hour period.

Understanding how to build brand characteristics in order to give subscribers something that's personally attractive and recognisable, yet perceptively different, is a fundamental objective of today's CSP marketeers. To develop that brand affinity it is important to move as close as possible to the subscriber, developing a CRM and communications strategy which has resonance for each market segment and sub-segment. This requires quite granular demographic information for each segment, as well as the ability to market directly to subscribers or prospective subscribers.

In short, it requires real-time responsiveness and a single view of the subscriber. Data needs to be transformed into information, and information must yield intelligence. With such intelligence CSPs can create innovative mobile services packages for greater subscriber intimacy. Equally, such an approach should change how subscribers interact with their CSP over the long-term.

Modeling Post-Paid, Adressing Pre-Paid
A new business model can be built around the subscriber, their interaction with the CSP, their service preferences, even their relationships with third party content providers, enabled using the CSP's network. This is not just about the relationship between the subscriber, the CSP and its commercial partners and merchants, but could conceivably include the use of intelligence about a subscriber's family, friends, acquaintances, personal interests, careers, behaviour and lifestyle.

This model encourages the emergence of a far more interactive brand experience, with subscriber attributes becoming less defined around segments and more defined around individual attributes - indeed the elusive market of one could become the norm for the consumer wireless market in time.

While such an approach works optimally for post-paid subscribers where the CSP has a wealth of information about its subscribers' behaviour and preferences, to support such an approach for its entire subscriber base, a CSP needs to recognise and understand how to utilise the business intelligence potential within its OSS and BSS infrastructure.
With pre-paid only services, the relationship between the subscriber and the CSP is arguably more tenuous. Increasingly, regulatory pressure is placing a minimum requirement for a name, address and related contact information to be validated before a CSP offers pre-paid services. However in many markets such information continues not to be captured, so knowledge about a subscriber starts and ends with the ‘International Mobile Subscriber Identity' number (IMSI) and/or ‘Mobile Identification Number' (MIN) and possibly a credit-card number.

Mediation, charging and billing systems represent a cost-effective source of business intelligence, but intelligence on its own is only one part of the equation. Customer care and billing systems need to be enabled to allow customers to model their own preferences and requirements. In charging and billing terms, this could mean providing a subscriber with the opportunity to access and model their own account structure preferences, thus yielding significant cost and service improvements for both subscriber and CSP.

To enable CSPs to support such an approach, a single "view" of subscriber interaction with the CSP can be created on the charging & billing platform, regardless of subscription type, which is presented to users in a simple, understandable way that addresses the subscriber, available/subscribed services and products, as well as providing a visual financial dimension. Such an approach could yield self-care access screens.

Polkomtel, through its New Billing System (NBS) using Intec's Singl.eView convergent charging and billing platform, is enabling itself - through its Plus+ brand - to realise the true potential of 3G and HSDPA supported voice, data and next generation services.

The operator launched an innovative pre-paid service, branded 36.6, to attract the lucrative youth market; as part of this the Chill Bill service was launched. With Chill Bill subscribers receive a PLN 10 monthly account top-up to spend on any 36.6 voice or data service, in exchange for receiving three, one and a half minute advertisements which they connect to via a freephone IVR number. Chill Bill is also available for subscribers with a zero account balance.

In the 12 months following launch Plus increased its subscriber base to 14.2 million, to become Poland's biggest operator; it was also the first operator worldwide to launch a Chill Bill style service. Phase 2 of Polkomtel's NBS project has recently commenced, to service the operator's post-paid customer base, which will enable them to launch even more innovative, new products and services at a rapid rate to both pre- and post-paid subscribers, all on a single charging engine.

Pre-Paid, Post-Paid & ‘Now-Pay'
As demonstrated by Polkomtel, divergence between pre-paid and post-paid subscription models should no longer be a barrier to a convergent CRM strategy. Previously post-event billing and customer care systems operated in batch mode, and could not support the real-time call decisions required by the pre-paid business model.

A combination of new technology and new process models now makes it possible to remove the barriers separating pre-paid and post-paid subscriptions, barriers which have made neither commercial nor technical sense for some time.

For CSPs to provide a further enhanced subscriber experience and differentiated service, they should also now be looking to offer several payment approaches.

This is a reflection of the emergence a new payment category associated with m-commerce transactions - ‘Now-Pay' transactions - whereby transaction request, authorisation and payment takes place in real-time, using similar models to well- established transaction models from the fixed internet.

Requirements have evolved stipulating a single view of all transactions, whether pre-paid, post-paid or now-pay, to help provide superior customer care and improved operational efficiency. In parallel, the multi-service nature of new generation networks also means that concurrent voice, data and content services need to be supported in real-time on the same account.

Offering their subscribers charging options in real-time further strengthens the CRM credentials of the CSP, improves their revenue generating and revenue assurance options as well as that all important brand equity and differentiation.

Obviously such a combination of diverse payment methods and converged and combined services demands an accommodating charging, billing and revenue management system. Not just a revenue system to manage account receivables, but one that supports the integration of real-time mediation processes and offers flexible rating, guiding and discounting all while running in real-time via highly available, distributed server configurations.

BSS/OSS for Pre-paid CRM
Having examined some of the challenges associated with providing convergent CRM for next generation services across the entire subscriber base, what are the type of BSS/OSS requirements associated with these challenges?

In order to maximise the subscriber relationship a unified approach to customer care and subscriber management, with a single point of control, regardless of pre-paid or post-paid subscription type is required, supporting:
- Service authorisation in real-time, to ensure the best subscriber experience and also providing a revenue assurance control, thus protecting a service providers liability to its content partners
- Dynamic account selection, to enable subscribers to control payment options and decide for themselves which of their accounts is used on a per session basis
- Service-specific spending limits allowing subscribers themselves to specify spending limits and account guiding, thus putting them in control of their own accounts
- Advice of charge, giving subscribers the confidence to make use of services
- Real-time charging and billing, to enable creative pricing strategies and protect the service provider from revenue loss, including fraud 
- The ability to calculate discounts and volume based charges for pre-paid and post-paid subscribers
- High availability, to ensure consistency between the IN based call control and balance management elements and the customer care and billing system infrastructure.

CSPs need not shy away from exploring the value of the trusted relationship with their entire subscriber base, regardless of whether Pre-paid or Post-paid, in order to better understand not only the commercial and technical challenges involved, but also the massive potential revenue and margin benefits associated with the provision of next generation services and consistent, brand differentiating customer relationship management to their entire subscriber base.

About the author: Ben Bannister is Director, Mobile Solutions for Intec Telecom Systems

Just as mobile operators looked set to conquer the world, along came a rival expedition that threatened to stake its claim for territory that operators regarded as rightfully theirs, says Keith Dyer

For years, operators have been grappling with the issue of how to force, enable, direct and persuade users to start using the services and applications available to them. It was hard work, but operators did not doubt that they would eventually achieve success. After all, they held the aces - the SIM card, the billing relationship, and the relevant customer data. One thing operators would not have feared even three years ago was that these problems would have been solved - but solved in a manner that threatens the very revenue streams they have had as their end-goal for so long.

For while the operators have been labouring through the polar ice on foot, dragging a heavy burden of legacy equipment behind them, their rivals (Apple, Google, Nokia,  RIM) have noted the mistakes they made, and have hitched their sleds to teams of keen huskies, packed the pemmican and set off for the promised land.

But can the operators fight back? Vodafone thinks so. It teamed together with China Mobile, SoftBank and Verizon to create a formidable one billion strong potential subscriber base. Its aim is to create a developer community to rival that of Google or Apple, but one that is available to users on a broad variety of handsets and OS platforms, rather than being limited to the Android or Apple OS.

The operator launched in September with two dedicated handsets developed on the LiMo Foundation platform, and also with an offering that can be downloaded to a choice of Symbian handsets, with compatibility with other handsets promised for later. In time it sees its JIL applications environment integrating, and interoperating, with other industry standard approaches such as OMTP BONDI. That would mean that more operators could join in with their own app stores, but tap into a broad range of applications without having to re-invent the wheel.

It's really a matter of opinion whether you think this is another example of operators attempting to seal off and control an area of revenue growth, or whether you think operators are finally grabbing hold of the apps opportunity in an open way. The dedicated handsets on LiMo look like a closed loop, but the commitment to wider compatibility looks like an open one. The JIL environment looks geared to the operators' advantage, but the commitment to integrate with other standards looks more open.

The operators know that they must stop bleeding revenues to Apple, Blackberry, Nokia et al. We have seen a very real indication of how they intend to stem the bleed. The question is, have they reached for the sticking plaster, or the long term cure?

Lynd Morley
I can't remember when I first met Lynd Morley, but it would have been shortly after the publishing company I was working for merged with the publishing company Lynd was working for. Although geography and the nature of our respective titles meant we
didn't work together closely, the merger made us stable mates; and I found over the years that when we did catch up Lynd would always be a sound source of advice. Opinions were delivered with her wry smile never far away, and events were always kept in perspective.
And now, in unhappy circumstances, I find myself taking over from her at the title that she made her own over the last 17 years. It is a testament to her work that everyone involved has made producing this issue a much easier task than it could have been. The sense of warmth and respect for the magazine that I encountered when planning the issue was tangible, and so much of that is surely down to Lynd. We have a full appreciation of Lynd on pages 6-7 and this issue is, of course, dedicated to her memory.  

Service providers are moving to Carrier Ethernet in response to the need to handle  fast-growing traffic from consumers and business, as well as to support wholesale applications such as mobile back-haul says David Noguer Bau

Carrier Ethernet - also known as transparent or native LAN, Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, GigE, metro Ethernet, Ethernet private line, Ethernet virtual private line, Layer 2 virtual private network, Ethernet access, and virtual private LAN service - represent a large market. In recent years, Carrier Ethernet has been widely adopted, responding to a diverse demand: business services, broadband aggregation, wireless backhaul, NGN deployments etc.  According to telecoms market watchers Insight Research, US enterprises and consumers alone are expected to spend more than $27 billion over the next five years on Ethernet services provided by carriers. The market is growing at around 25% per year to 2014 - a rare double-digit growth spike in a telecoms market.

Indeed, some researchers think the current economic downturn will give the technology a boost as it's less expensive to deploy than alternative legacy equipment such as TDM and, as a consequence, is currently growing faster than overall telecom CAPEX. But Carrier Ethernet demand has not always been the same throughout its history and the network requirements have also been evolving.

Past
The early implementations of Carrier Ethernet by service providers around the world were led by business services and the demand to lower the cost of high-speed data connections. With almost 98% of the data traffic across the WAN originated and terminated on Ethernet ports, an Ethernet optimized transport network offers both cost savings and simplification by replacing costly CPEs with basic Ethernet switch/routers.

The architecture of the Metro Ethernet Networks were deployed as parallel infrastructures, completely separated from the existing networks and dedicated exclusively to provide a simple enterprise data service. Carrier Ethernet networks were based on enterprise switches relying on Spanning Tree protocols and simple VLAN domains.

Present
The industry has realized the importance of Ethernet to service provider's success.  As broadband was getting more popular, the bandwidth requirements were growing exponentially and DSLAM vendors introduced high-speed Ethernet uplinks to reduce the cost of the infrastructure. Therefore Ethernet was gradually deployed to every central office extending  availability for business users.

The architecture evolved from dedicated Ethernet infrastructure to converged metro networks with full carrier grade attributes. Scalable Carrier Ethernet MPLS platforms were introduced to provide layer 2 and layer 3 services including IP VPNs and a full range of Metro Ethernet Forum services.

With the growth in wireless data services, Ethernet is again being asked to solve the backhaul component. Existing attributes such as scalability, huge bandwidth and availability are insufficient and Carrier Ethernet is now expected to provide clock synchronization and stronger OAM techniques to effectively replace TDM in this space.

Future
As we've seen, across its short history, Carrier Ethernet is reinventing itself to become the technology of choice for a variety of applications. It provides bandwidth at the right cost for the booming, over-the-top traffic and rich services from MPLS.  But, what's next?      

To avoid commoditization and thereby increase the network monetization, service providers have to quickly evolve their business models from being based around connectivity to content and application models. As an example content delivery networks and cloud computing are new areas to explore for their future success. The requirements for successful service provider networks have evolved once more. The nature of cloud computing services, built around data centres and virtualized servers, introduces elasticity as a new requirement. Demand is not predictable anymore as cloud computing must be able to absorb the peaks and the subscriber will not be paying just for the connection so an SLA will be linked to the up time of the applications and their availability. Carrier Ethernet has the flexibility to allocate bandwidth on demand and can be coordinated at anytime with the cloud requirements. Extending server virtualization across multiple data centers maximizes the CPU utilization but it requires scalable layer 2 connectivity to transport a large number of VLAN; this can be achieved by integrating the data centres to the Carrier Ethernet network. 

Evolving the services towards content and applications introduces new requirements forcing the network to become content aware. A large number of network appliances have been introduced recently to perform such advanced functionalities as: deep packet inspection, video monitoring, session border control, firewalling, intrusion detection and Prevention,.. but such an variety of platforms adds to complexity and incremental opex.

In the same way that Carrier Ethernet helped the convergence of multiple networks, it can now provide a solution to simplify the advanced service deployment by consolidating all the content aware appliances. During the second half of 2008, Juniper Networks announced as part of the Intelligent Services Edge initiative a large number of layer 2 to layer 7 services for the MX and M Series platforms including security (IPS and firewalling), session border control, deep packet inspection leveraging the in-house technologies in this space.

Juniper Networks and TelecomTV  recently ran a survey of service providers in Europe, Middle East and Africa region to identify the importance of Carrier Ethernet in their networks. The survey covered business aspects, services and technologies.

For our carrier respondents, the best strategies of growing profitability in wireline business, involved:  cost-cutting and creating new services followed by converging services across Ethernet. All of these strategies are linked to the key attributes of Carrier Ethernet.

We also asked about the most demanding services for Carrier Ethernet. There doesn't appear to be any consensus over which services and applications put the most strain on the networks as all attracted about the same proportion of votes. But business and residential services seems to be a popular choice.

When asking about deployment drivers, broadband aggregation attracted the greatest number of responses, although the other options weren't far behind. It's interesting to see that data centre connectivity was a driver for just over a third of our carrier respondents, which exemplifies the importance of Carrier Ethernet in this area.

As to what were the greatest benefits from the introduction of the technology: its ability to provide high bandwidth is still rated high or very high by all the carrier respondents. Cost, simplicity and flexibility all came in at roughly second equal.

As stated by Kireeti Kompella when discussing the Purple Line story (see European Communications 2008), the traditional service provider organizational structure separates transmission from IP groups. We wanted to check the market on this know how are they organized; so while there are many carriers in our sample still maintaining the separation there are nearly the same number already with a converged group responsible for both transport and IP services.

On the technical side, the majority of the respondents are running MPLS/VPLS in their metro networks. It's also interesting to see they have plans to extend it towards the access to gain full advantage of a seamless MPLS deployment.

A couple of interesting points here on the services deployment: although Carrier Ethernet services seems to be widely available in the metro, it's followed closely by the nationwide services. But even more interesting, the Ethernet services across multiple service provider networks are gaining traction; this reflects the maturity of these services.

When looking on future services to be delivered in the Carrier Ethernet networks, the surprise comes by having IP-VPN in the first position, followed by High Value services to help full convergence of services and network monetization.

We've also asked service providers about the advanced applications they would like to see running on top of the Carrier Ethernet platforms. Around 70% of the respondents would like to have IP services to avoid L3 overlay networks. Interesting as well, is seeing 40-50% of the respondents looking to have integrated features such as: Subscriber management, Firewall, SBC or Video quality analysis.

Carrier Ethernet is a consolidated technology that moved from being a simple solution for business services to mainstream on NGN transformation. The future seems to evolve towards having advanced services running on the same platforms to simplify the architecture, consolidate devices and converge services.

David Noguer Bau is Head of Carrier Ethernet Marketing, Juniper Networks, EMEA

To view the tables that accompanied this feature please refer to version of article (on pages 30-32) published in summer 2009 issue of European Communications magazine: http://viewer.zmags.co.uk/publication/a9f29d6e#/a9f29d6e/1

For many service providers, the price tag of a complete fibre network overbuild is too  steep to justify. An all-fibre network build out is actually a rare undertaking. Many incumbent service providers around the world - including those in Japan, Korea, North America and Taiwan - are utilizing existing copper infrastructure in some portion of the last mile, or in the multiple dwelling unit (MDU) risers, in order to eliminate construction disruptions and hasten rollouts and return on investments (ROI) for new, advanced broadband services. These hybrid architectures rely heavily on VDSL2 technology. With VDSL2 running over the copper portions of the access network, service providers are capable of delivering symmetrical speeds of up to 100 Mbps and support internet protocol television (IPTV), networked gaming, peer-to-peer and a variety of other broadband-intensive applications. Venkat Sundaresan takes a look

FTTH is the ideal future-proof network architecture because optical fibre is connected directly from the service provider's network to the customers' premises. Fibre is capable of delivering extremely high bandwidth and outstanding error performance, while supporting transmission over long distances without requiring expensive repeaters.

However a full-fledged FTTH deployment is costly and time-consuming. For example, both Verizon and NTT are upgrading most of their infrastructure to all fibre - pushing fibre as close to the consumer as possible in order to ensure that they can deliver the most revenue-generating services well into the future.

Verizon and NTT are deploying fibre to single family homes, where it can be installed relatively easily. In its newsletter detailing financial results for the third quarter of 2006, Verizon reports that its fibre to the home (FTTH) initiative costs $1,745 per home - $845 to pass a premise with fibre and another $900 to connect fibre to the home. In Japan, NTT's costs are slightly lower. In fiscal year 2006, the company reported that incremental FTTH investment per user was approximately 130,000 yen, or about US$1,070.  As a result of the high price tag of fibre deployment, service providers must be patient to earn a return on their investment.

Fibre to the building (FTTB) is used primarily in densely populated settings in which MDUs are prevalent. Fibre is terminated in the building and VDSL2 runs over the existing copper infrastructure in the building risers.

Verizon and NTT are using a hybrid approach - in which VDSL2 technology runs over copper deployed in the risers - to deliver broadband services to MDUs. VDSL2 is being used as the last mile technology because deploying fibre in restricted riser space is much more challenging.By deploying VDSL2 on the copper in the risers in the FTTB architecture, service providers are able to maximize copper utilization. With VDSL2, service providers can use the full 30 MHz spectrum and provide full 100 Mbps symmetrical bandwidth, which is capable of supporting IPTV and other advanced broadband services.

There are other deep-fibre architectures that - when combined with VDSL2 technology over last-mile copper infrastructure - can offer many of the same performance advantages as a FTTH deployment. However, the advantage of these architectures center around time-to-market and reduced capital outlay.  These fibre-based architectures include fibre to the node (FTTN) fibre to the remote (FTTR) and fibre to the curb (FTTC).

With FTTN/FTTR/FTTC, optical fibre is terminated in a remote terminal - often a cabinet that serves an entire neighbourhood. At the remote terminal, the signal is then converted from optical to electrical so it can ride over existing copper infrastructure using VDSL2. The vast majority of service providers worldwide have employed this type of FTTN/FTTR architecture. Those carriers include Belgacom, Deutsche Telekom and Swisscom in Europe and AT&T Corp. in North America. Using a FTTN/FTTR/FTTC architecture enables service providers to deploy high-capacity fibre to a central location in a neighbourhood, where that capacity can be shared among all homes in a neighbourhood.  Benefits include:

  • Less customer disruption -service providers do not have to dig up and install new wires to a home.
  • Faster time-to-market and return on investment (ROI) - A complete FTTH/FTTP overbuild takes a very long time, and on average, will not yield a return on investment for at least 15 years, according to Analysys, a UK-based research firm. A cabinet-based VDSL deployment can achieve ROI in about six years, Analysys noted.
  • Cost containment - compared to a complete fibre overbuild, an FTTN/FTTR/FTTC deployment is significantly less expensive. AT&T, for instance, is using this type of architecture for its U-Verse service in the United States. The company is building out FTTN, and using VDSL2 to turbo-charge the existing copper loops entering the homes. AT&T has publicly estimated that the FTTN architecture costs only about $360 per user to deploy.

The primary disadvantage to FTTN/FTTR/FTTC is that this architecture is viewed by some as an intermediate-term solution. FTTC is similar to the FTTN/FTTR, but extends fibre closer to each end user.

While the deployment costs vary widely from FTTH to FTTB and FTTN/FTTR/FTTC, the performance of each can be virtually comparable under the right conditions. 

Service providers undertaking FTTH deployments are relying on one of two common standards - Ethernet passive optical networking (EPON) and gigabit PON (GPON).  EPON is popular in the Japanese market and is making inroads in other Asian countries, including China and Korea. EPON can deliver data streams of up to 1 Gbps and operates at a distance of up to 20 km between the optical line terminal (OLT) and optical network terminal (ONT).  EPON OLTs support up to 32 individual users on each PON port.

GPON is being launched worldwide and is expected to be the FTTH technology of choice in Europe and North America. GPON delivers symmetrical and asymmetrical combinations of speeds up to 2.5 Gbps and operates at distances of up to 37 km between OLT and ONT. GPON can support up to 64 individual users per PON port.

VDSL2 also is being incorporated into fibre architectures to deliver high-speed access over existing copper loops in the last mile. VDSL2 is a physical layer technology for access networks that uses discrete multitone technique (DMT) modulation to offer high bandwidth to the consumer. It has eight profiles defined for a variety of applications, ranging from short loops to very long loops, and therefore, is a universal technology for access deployment. As carriers push fibre closer to the consumer, VDSL2 enables them to deliver revenue-enhancing, value-added services quickly and cost-effectively over existing copper infrastructure from the node, remote, curb, or even in the risers of a multi-tenant building. VDSL2 is in use today in Asia, by carriers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, as well as in European countries, such as Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

While FTTH offers service providers the best path for establishing a network that is capable of meeting bandwidth demands long into the future, the upfront costs and lengthy deployment process are daunting.  By employing a hybrid architecture, service providers can cost-effectively and quickly deliver advanced broadband services and generate revenue while establishing a migration path for future fibre installation.

Venkat Sundaresan is the Senior Manager of Product Marketing for the access products at Ikanos Communications.  He can be contacted via: info@ikanos.com
www.ikanos.com

The increase in cybercrime is spawning new defence initiatives explains Lynd Morley

Recent revelations in the UK national newspaper, The Guardian, that the mobile phones of public figures had been systematically hacked by journalists and private detectives, not only set the cat amongst the pigeons with regard to this particular personal privacy issue, but raised the spotlight to focus, yet again, on the growing problem of cybercrime, and the many and varied forms it can take. 

Or at least it did for those who have been concerned about the growing threat of cybercrime for some time.  One aspect of the reaction to The Guardian story that was a little disturbing was that while the public (and press) outrage was directed at the invasion of privacy (quite rightly so) there was little discussion (or outrage) around the topic of securing mobile communications against any hackers.

There has, in fact, been a chorus of warnings about the growing threat of cybercrime over the past few months.  And the continuing poor economic climate is only serving the make matters worse, as redundant (and disgruntled) employees can pose a considerable threat to sensitive information on company networks.

At the beginning of this year, for instance, participants and speakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos were getting exercised about the subject.  During debates, the vulnerability of the internet (which has always been recognised), it was stressed, has  potentially huge consequences, given that it is now part of society's central nervous system and attacks could therefore threaten whole economies. 

Cybercrime comes in many shapes and sizes, including the theft of credit card or bank details, as well as identity, and intellectual property, much of which is committed by large and well-organised gangs, and the cost of all of which (including repairing the damage) runs to around $1 trillion a year according to a report from anti-virus specialists McAfee entitled Unsecured Economies: Protecting Vital Information.

At the same time, cyber warfare - within which denial of service attacks could bring a country to it knees in a very short time - is also high on the list of concerns, particularly for the state national security services around the world. 

In response to these widening threats, we've seen a flurry of announcements, including President Barak Obama's statement that he was making the protection of the US computer network "a national security priority", and was setting up a cyber security office in the White House.

The UK Government also highlighted the importance it places on cyber security within the whole national security framework when it launched its Cyber Security Strategy 2009, alongside the annual update of the National Security Strategy. Noting that as he UK's dependence of cyber space grows, so the security of cyber space becomes ever more critical to the health of the nation, the UK Home Office statement adds: "Cyber space cuts across international borders, it is largely anonymous, and the technology that underpins it continues to develop at a rapid pace."

The Strategy includes the setting up of two new organizations, both of which will be established in September this year, and will be operational by the end of March 2010.   The Office of Cyber Security will provide strategic leadership for government departments, co-coordinating a shared view of possible threats.  The Cyber Security Operations Centre will bring together existing security functions to monitor, coordinate response and provide advice and information about risks to business and the public.

Neither the US, nor the UK, can possible act alone, the international nature of cyber space and cybercrime dictating that any initiative - say the development of a cyber security legal framework for instance - requires close cooperation across the globe.

Raising awareness of the issues also plays no small part in defense against cybercrime.  Indifference, lack of action, and the lack of surprise at the vulnerability of communications systems - resulting in a certain level of cynical acceptance - can only serve to strengthen the hand of the perpetrators.

For nearly a decade, the annual Broadband World Forum Europe conference and exhibition  has grown significantly, hosting more than 6000 industry players and offering a wide range of information and communication technologies topics under the large umbrella of broadband. Themed "Delivering the Promise," this year's Event will feature more than 250 speakers in over 50 breakout sessions, keynote addresses, plenary panels, and workshops

Broadband World Forum Europe focuses on convergence, interoperability, and the transformation of carrier networks. At the event, industry experts will share their insights and experiences throughout the session programming, examining the latest broadband technology developments, content, applications, and services with particular relevance to the European market. Industry leaders from global carrier, supplier, software, and enterprise segments will explore and analyze technology developments relating to the ICT industry's value chain, preparing them to develop strategies and business models and make informed decisions on monetizing their broadband investments.

Chairman of the NGMN Alliance, Vivek Badrinath (EVP Networks Carriers Platforms and Infrastructure, France Telecom) will serve as the World Forum Chair and will host a carrier panel at the Forum.  Among the keynote speakers will be: Didier Lombard, Chairman and CEO, Orange - who will make the opening keynote address; Mika Vehvillainen, COO, Nokia Siemens Networks; Carl-Henric Svanberg, President and COO, Ericsson; Stefano Pileri, CTO, Telecom Italia; Jean-Briac Perrette, President, NBC Universal Digital Distribution; and Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent.

Workshops will a range of topics including: Converged TV - Delivery and Management of Blended TV Services; Exploiting the Hidden Value in the Network: Deep Packet Inspection: Technology, Promise & Controversy - What You Need to Know; and The Future of Mobile Broadband: Coverage vs. Cost.  Further sessions include: Rich Communication Services: How to Leverage the Next Generation Mobile and Fixed Broadband Networks; Creating a Compelling Mix of Web 2.0 and Unified Communications Services for the Enterprise Market; Where and Where Not to Deploy ATCA in Broadband Networks; Delivering IP Telephony, IPTV, and Web Services on a Converged IMS-based Core-Network to Achieve Next Generation, Unified and Synchronized Service Experience; and The Future of Mobile Access.
Running alongside the conference, the exhibition will enable global technology vendors to showcase their most progressive broadband technologies, equipment, applications, solutions, and services.  As well as highlighting products, the organisers stress, the exhibition also provides the opportunity to discuss the latest technology developments and see how the latest innovations can keep implementation costs down, maximize return on infrastructure investment, and benefit the bottom line.

The event is organized by IEC, a nonprofit organization, dedicated to catalyzing technology and business progress worldwide in a range of high-technology industries and their university communities. Since 1944, the IEC has provided high-quality educational opportunities for industry professionals, academics, and students.

The Broadband World Forum Europe is supported by Orange as Official Host Sponsor and the NGMN Alliance as Associate Sponsor.

The ninth annual Broadband World Forum Europe will be held 7-9 September 2009 at CNIT La Defense, Paris.

www.iec.org

Broadband standards are stimulating investment and competition, says Robin Mersh

Broadband technology continues to change our lives.  We are so busy emailing, downloading, twittering and updating our Facebooks and LinkedIn sites (to name but a few) that we've forgotten that barely a decade ago broadband users numbered just a few hundred thousand worldwide - not the 400 million plus lines we enjoy today.

The new buzzword on the block today is Super-fast broadband. While the term came to many in the UK for the first time via the mass media when Ofcom - the UK regulator - and BT - the UK incumbent telco - began making announcements earlier this year, the capability has already begun to take root around the world. Japan and Korea are leading the way, according to Ofcom research, but Sweden and Belgium are making their mark, with other countries close behind.

Super-fast broadband offers the prospect of real consumer benefits, building on those of today's broadband services, while supporting high bandwidth applications like video. The services supported by super-fast broadband bring individual, social and economic benefits globally to households and businesses. We are already seeing a massive increase in video communication over broadband and even more information and entertainment content will continually become available. The benefits will also extend to the wider economy, supporting new ways for consumers and online businesses to trade, developing new applications and services and driving creative industries everywhere.

To drive these benefits to the most people, organizations such as Ofcom are doing what they can to encourage an open competitive landscape for superfast broadband. Ofcom's vision is of a wholesale bitstream access that offers competitive communications providers the chance to accommodate innovation and product differentiation beyond the operational challenges of passive access. This type of high quality, fit for purpose bitstream has come to be known as Ethernet Active Line Access - or ALA for short.

So what is the difference of passive and active line access?  Passive allows for resale of the access facilities but requires the competitive provider to provide their own equipment. Active Line Access (ALA) provides for the sharing of access facilities and equipment, thereby minimizing collocation complexities as well as unnecessary investment on behalf of the competitive provider. 

There are a variety of benefits that are derived from ALA which:

  • Is service neutral to the applications
  • Video, HDTV, voice, data...
  • Is neutral to higher layers
  • IP-based applications, voice and video protocols...
  • Is transport access agnostic
  • Point-to-point fibre, Passive Optical Network (PON) options, copper, bonded copper, wireless...
  • Benefits from the economies of scale of Ethernet
  • Allows for innovative and differentiated services to be built
  • Improves distribution and management of next generation wholesale services
  • Customer acquisition by a competitive provider does not necessitate truck roll
  • Competitive service providers can interconnect at different points with the network provider

Ethernet was an obvious choice as the interface technology for ALA. It has proven to be simple, low cost, ubiquitous and well developed. There is a wide availability of low cost equipment that is already standardised and Ethernet has flexible bandwidth capability, excellent interoperability and well-established security and Quality of Service (QoS) protocols. Other factors making Ethernet a natural choice were its operating mode at the low Data Link layer of the Open Systems Interconnection Ref Model (OSI), which allows innovation in services and has a standard adopted by telecommunications companies around the world, as well as the significant investment and standardisation invested in it over past years.

Only last month, at the quarterly meeting of the Broadband Forum (BBF) in Valencia, Spain, BBF members were addressed by Chinyelu Onwurah, Ofcom's Head of Telecoms Technology. This was a landmark meeting in itself, as it was the first occasion that the "new" enlarged Broadband Forum had met, following the union with the IP/MPLS Forum, which has now created the global specifications body dedicated to empowering end-to-end broadband network specifications.

While praising the work of the Forum, she also highlighted that many of the Broadband Forum Technical Reports are paving the way for Next Generation Access solutions that meet the vast majority of ALA requirements. Although not written specifically for ALA requirements, these reports coupled with the work, largely in the arena of Ethernet service definition, UNI/NNI definition and business end-user requirements, that have been undertaken by another specifications body, the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), are critical to ALA and open competitive market success.

In a parallel development, the European Commission endorsed the need for standards in relation to wholesale broadband access products in its most recent draft Next Generation Access recommendation which went to public consultation on the 12 June 2009. In the draft recommendation, the Commission calls on national regulators to work with each other and international standards bodies to develop technical requirements that can be turned into widely accepted standards. This follows the work that Ofcom kicked-off in 2007 on Ethernet active line access technical requirements and which were finalised earlier this year.

So what are the requirements and the standards that are already laying the foundation for ALA? The key requirements of ALA are security, QoS, multicast, flexible customer premises equipment and flexible interconnection.  These are already being addressed in a variety of approved and available standards as listed in the box.

These reports represent a comprehensive list of specifications that can ensure a super-fast future and the Broadband Forum is dedicated to continuing to serve the industry with the specifications it needs to ensure that consumers have a choice in services and that the communications evolution continues.

Whilst remaining neutral in regards to choosing any one particular approach to broadband regulation and competition policy, the Broadband Forum believes that for communications providers Ethernet ALA means the availability of a standardised wholesale access product sooner, rather than later.

Robin Mersh is Chief Operating Officer, Broadband Forum

Originally telecom providers built and provided a limited and controlled range of  services, which customers could choose from.  When competition was introduced into the market along with the internet, so too was consumer awareness of choice.  In the future, Phil Kingsland contends, consumer demand will drive the development of new and specific services and a key enabler of these could well be Public ENUM

Convergent communications isn't a new concept, but it's the topic that continues to dominate the telecommunications industry.  As the new and traditional technologies continue to converge, the number and types of products and services available will grow and evolve with suppliers offering a combination of services, tools and applications for users to communicate with.

At the same time as the technology's converging, so are the telecommunications and internet industries.  One of the challenges for the two industries is the speed of development and innovation, especially regarding fixed line and packet-switched internet telecoms.

The telecommunications industry is 140 years old and provides trusted and regulated services, with the associated reputation of regulated industries in regard to speed of innovation and development of new technologies. 

In contrast, the new kid on the block for the last decade or so has been the internet, which is run on a bottom up, self regulated, multi- stakeholder model, which has delivered a fluid environment, with constant changes and innovations. The internet's model enables services to be developed, tried and adopted or rejected faster, without the large-scale investment that is required to launch a regulated telecommunications product. This has allowed the industry to introduce a number of new and innovative ways to communicate that we might otherwise not have seen.

The combination of two very different industries is having an enormous impact on the telecommunications industry.  As convergence evolves, the classification of services becomes blurred.  Customers can now get a multitude of services from many providers.  These services are often becoming consolidated in a continuous evolution, increasing competition in an already fierce market.

A new issue introduced by this convergence is not being able to contact a VoIP telephone system from another VoIP system by using the associated telephone number.  If the VoIP address of the recipient of the call is not explicitly known then the call must be routed via the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs) to identify the called party.  ENUM was designed to address this issue; it maps telephone numbers into domains that are stored in the internet domain name system (DNS).  The owner of the domain can record both the PSTN telephone number and VoIP address against the ENUM domain.  This allows people to use traditional telephone numbering systems to connect VoIP phones, without needing the PSTN to find the corresponding phones.

The implication is that users with an ENUM-aware VoIP phone, can access any registered user over the internet without use of the traditional PSTN network.  Users simply dial a telephone number in the traditional manner - it is then transformed into an ENUM domain name.  A look up is then carried out and the call is routed according to the specific indications set by the user.  If the number called is not in the ENUM database, then the call will proceed to the person's non-VoIP telephone and be charged in the normal way.

Another feature of the ENUM protocol is that users can register multiple resource addresses in their ENUM domain such as VoIP servers, mobiles, email, websites etc.  This enables the possibility to converge the multiple types of communications to one telephone number and for new services to be created to exploit this. 

For example, a person may choose a VoIP option from a returned ENUM query to reduce call costs. Or present a caller who queries their ENUM domain with the type of communication that they are available on at different times of the day, e.g. Provide telephone numbers and emails in business hours and only email address out of work hours.

As consumers, these types of services will become invaluable as we begin to use IP communications in all devices and have more addresses for each contact in their communications portfolio.  A service provider that offers subscribers effective and cost efficient management of their communications will build loyalty by providing tangible benefits and be able to charge for this value.

This is a significant move away from the traditional business model of communications providers as it places more emphasis on these value services than call charges. There are service providers who argue against the use of Public ENUM due to the fear of the control that it presents to users.  These service providers may choose to exploit the benefits of ENUM via a private ENUM registry.  This offers the service provider the opportunity to protect the existing telecoms business models and other commercial information.

However, it is yet to be proved whether users are looking to manage their own service or if they are prepared to pay for services that help them control their communications from a service provider via their Public ENUM. Certainly the argument for call charges is diminishing as more minutes are added to inclusive deals, Ofcom in the UK reports that in 2008 a mere 14% of pay monthly mobile subscribers claim that they usually exceed their inclusive minutes.

Another example of the dilemma that the convergence presents that the current influx of mobile VoIP applications has put many mobile providers in fear of losing revenue, and caused a number of carriers to block VoIP calls over 3G.  In April this year, this led the European Union to consider a ban on carrier VoIP filtering.  Should this proposal be passed by the commission, users will have widespread access to a variety of free calling tools, making IP communications technology more commonly understood and used.  At this point, having an ENUM enabled mobile phone would become a very powerful business tool, and open the door to broad consumer use.

It is clear that an IP connectivity technology such as ENUM is central to the continued development and convergence of telecommunications and internet technologies. 

For the full advantages of Public ENUM to be realised, a sizeable group of users need to have registered their numbers and be able to perform ENUM look ups.  There is some debate about how and when this will happen.  It may take an application or service that really taps into business drivers to propel widespread adoption.  This could be realised via any number of tools that bring ENUM into the consumers' consciousness, in the same way that certain VoIP products in the internet space have made IP telephony accessible for everyday users.
In contrast to public ENUM, private ENUM tips the balance in favour of the provider.  It gives suppliers the ability to manage the service and therefore the customer and also retain more control over revenue streams. 

With consumers now more aware of choice than ever, it is vital that telecommunications providers offer user centric products to retain existing customers and win new ones.  At a time when all business is more competitive than ever before, these issues should have a considerable influence when deciding what product set to offer customers.

Consumers are no longer happy to just accept traditional service offerings that provide the best benefits to the supplier.  They have learnt from competition and the internet that there is another way.  Customers are concerned not just with the current offering, but also how that impacts on the future development of products, services and applications.  A communications strategy is central to the success of any business, so being at the forefront of technology and having the ability to adapt to future developments is vital to continued success.

Opening up IP connectivity, using Public ENUM, supports the continued innovation and evolution of the telecommunications market.  It establishes opportunities for applications to be developed that will benefit users in new ways and create openings in the market for new business models.

Public ENUM has the advantage of being readily available, cheap to provide and is already deployed.  It sits comfortably alongside existing communications services, and enabling suppliers to offer truly converged communications that adopt the best features of both the telecommunications network and the internet. 

There are a number of forces in both the telecommunications and internet markets that will decide the future direction of ENUM's role in converging communications.  Undoubtedly one of these will be consumer demand.  If business users realise the potential of Public ENUM and demand a service that gives them control of their communications, the type of service they've learnt to expect from the internet, suppliers will need to meet this need to retain business.  What's clear is that Public ENUM presents the possibility of a myriad of solutions and applications that suppliers may not even have begun to realise.

Phil Kingsland is Director of Marketing and Communications, Nominet UK

The future of pay-TV is hybrid says Francois Pogodalla. What hybrid means is the  combination of DVB reception techniques for receiving broadcast digital video, with IP capability to receive video or other multimedia content over Ethernet. The opportunities for new services enabled by hybrid products are immense

The benefits and drivers for the hybrid strategy apply to both the wide area services of switched digital video, video-on-demand, over-the-top and other interactive applications, and the local area services, that is, the home network.

This is how we at ADB see convergence: not device-centric, but content-centric. Hence the goal is to facilitate access to content, whatever its shape or origin.

The home network is a key element of true content convergence, with set-top boxes interacting with the devices in the home, including personal computers, games consoles, portable media players and mobile phones. This means that personal content can be shared throughout the home, and played on the TV or the home theatre system. Utilizing the home network, these products also allow for new applications such as multi-room PVR and tuner sharing.

Connecting the home network with the content provider's network and the internet allows consumers to access their content whenever and wherever they want. They can even record content from wherever they happen to be. The benefits of the hybrid strategy for wide and local area applications, although different, can cross over to some extent. Take a satellite broadcast network, with an installed base of PVR's: having an IP connection can allow other applications such as uploading locally stored content to the network, or to other boxes in the home, with an opportunity for new VOD services that not only include the programming the operator has pre-selected, but the content the users themselves have recorded.

Adding hybrid technology onto the DVB platform opens the doors to these types of services. Customers demand plug and play. Bringing the world of the PC and Internet to the television, means making the system easy to install and use for TV viewers.

What lies behind simplifying the customer experience is the knowledge that we has accumulated over the years in managing the complex software involved in providing many different kinds of services through the set-top box. Hybrid technology is complex from the software management perspective. It requires implementing the full IP software stack in parallel with all the other software that additional hybrid services demand. There is the MHP middleware that takes care of terrestrial digital video reception, the IP software stack sitting next to it for receiving video over the IP connection. Then you add the local area applications, the DLNA implementation for home networking, plus DRM (security) and multi-room PVR services. This combination of software can put a high level of stress on the efficiency of the software stack. Building a hybrid product by just adding different software modules together can mean an unstable product, that's difficult and slow.

It is very important to be able to stabilize the complex solutions involved, and there is tremendous value in the vertical control of the entire software stack. ADB is one of the few companies that can write the complete set of software from the low level operating system, up to the high-end applications, in a hybrid environment. We are leading the industry in software integration: the first set-top box company to be certified to use the new DLNA home networking standards, and the first in the world to deploy the new MPEG-4 video codec back in 2005

The best approach to hybrid technology is to deploy proprietary implementations of open standards.  Using open standards, such as DLNA, is the best way of guaranteeing interoperability and ensuring the industry remains dynamic, with devices being able to interact with one another. Using a proprietary implementation of an open standard also ensures that all elements are fine-tuned for optimal performance.

When we designed the hybrid box for customers back in 2005, there were no chips performing MPEG-4/H.264 decoding at the time, so we implemented our own MPEG-4 decoding software, based on the standard, using an off the shelf digital processor. 

We have developed our own implementation of the MHP standard which is merged with the customer's IP stack. We have gone even further now adding local area applications -home networking through implementing the DLNA standards that support picture and music exchange and multi-room PVR throughout the home. ADB is also implementing technology from partners such as Stream Group, whose product Solocoo opens up the wider world of Internet videos.

Making it easy for the TV viewer to access a multitude of new services means providing these services as part of the TV and not a PC experience. It's important to retain the simplicity of the TV experience in this complicated environment. ADB is constantly striving to make improvements in order to present the additional choices to the consumer, in as straightforward way as possible. For example, to assist viewers in navigating the additional content, all services provided through the box are made available as channels, Another innovation is the use of 3D graphics in the user interface, so navigation on the services available becomes a more pleasant and intuitive experience for the end-user.

For the operator, the use of hybrid techniques means the extra services provided can increase subscriber retention, hence reduce churn and offer opportunities to increase revenue.. There is a definite interest from operators in hybrid technology, in making better use of their assets.

The addition of IP to the DVB digital video set-top box opens up endless possibilities for added value content - VOD, access to user specific content, whether from the Internet or the user's own content. There's no doubt that hybrid solutions feature outstanding tools to limit churn - for instance adding access to the user's own content makes the box a personal device. IP also enables the operator to free up broadcast bandwidth, thus limiting future investment in infrastructure.

Different markets worldwide may be going at different speeds, but they're all moving in the direction of a hybrid strategy - bringing the Internet to the TV and adding local area applications will happen everywhere. Digital will do for television what it's done for telecoms, which is to open up endless possibilities. The industry can now be really creative in exploring all the opportunities that a truly converged TV experience brings.

Francois Pogodalla is CEO at ADB SA

Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff in the Obama White House, said recently: "Rule one:  never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things". Like introducing transformational tools that may just keep your business afloat, says Aaron McCormack

It's not just the financial services industry that has suffered in the current economic downturn. Many other sectors have been affected in a crisis that, to date, has been marked by large reversals in financial results, mass layoffs, bankruptcies and the disappearance of long-standing companies. And while the question of how we got here could occupy analysts, politicians and commentators for years to come, the more immediate concern for business leaders is to find ways to respond to the circumstances that now surround them.

The issue was to the fore when the Forum of Young Global Leaders, of which I am a member, met at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos early this year. The question we asked was: "Can we create a system where we value genuine value creation beyond the quarterly results?"

If so, this is exactly the right time to make the changes needed. As London Business School's Donald Sull said in a recent article in the Financial Times: "Every downturn opens a window of opportunity to adjust the status quo and astute managers push through necessary changes while the window is open". This raises two wider questions. The first: what will the post-crisis order look like? The second: what can organisations do to prepare for it, especially at a time when budgets are tight and hard choices often have to be made?

As we all know, crystal balls are a notoriously unreliable way of finding answers. But one thing is certain - like it or not, we are all heading for a low carbon future, and we need to get there fast. Certainly, this seems to be where political leaders are placing their bets, with calls for ‘new green deals' coming from every part of the globe. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is just one of a number of prominent leaders who believes we are being presented with a unique opportunity to address two crises at the same time: climate change and the economic downturn. Business leaders also seem to be waking up to what Lord Stern of Brentford, the author of the 2006 review that laid out the economic case for fighting global warming, is calling ‘green stimulus'.

Based on BT's experience, introducing conferencing, and using it to its full potential, is going to be an important next step for many firms. Analyst house IDC is in agreement. In 2008, the Unified Communications (UC) market in Europe was worth $2.6 billion. By 2013, IDC expects this to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 39% to a value of $13.5 billion, making it one of the brightest spots in a very tough technology market. "In such a challenging market, where spending is plummeting, there is a strong opportunity for solutions that can reduce expenses such as travel in the short-term," said Chris Barnard, research director at IDC. "This means that UC, which includes video and audio conferencing and collaboration solutions, is one of the few technology areas well placed to grow during the recession."

The good news is that, in most businesses, the infrastructure to support audio and web conferencing is already in place. All that is required is a phone, a computer and an internet connection - facilities that already exist on almost every desk. However, it is true that newer telepresence systems - a new generation of video collaboration services, with high definition cameras and huge projection screens, require new investment. However with their ability to illustrate physical characteristics and cues in great detail, they offer commensurately greater returns.

With this technology, it is possible to create virtual meeting environments where eye contact, body language and other conversational cues come as standard, akin to face-to-face meetings. It is possible to run the most crucial of business meetings - for example, delicate negotiations and executive recruitment interviews. And, while it will probably never completely replace face-to-face meetings, it does significantly accelerate a firm's ability to get things done.

Europe, in particular, is very much behind the curve when it comes to using existing conferencing technology to make businesses more productive, fleet of foot and efficient - exactly what is needed right now.

So what real difference does conferencing make when you adopt it whole-heartedly? To begin with, it encourages people to interact and work together to solve problems. It takes time to set up face-to-face meetings. Diaries have to be checked, rooms booked and travel plans made, and that can be a barrier to effective collaboration and teamwork. Conferencing is much simpler, and much more immediate. If it's integrated with a system that allows people to see each other's diaries - Microsoft Outlook, for example, all employees have to do is check people's availability, send an appointment and make the call. People can get together in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

Saving time in business, product and sales operations gives sales individuals more time to sell, increasing the bottom line. Enterprises with large, dispersed field organisations, including high-tech manufacturing companies like Agilent and professional services firms like Accenture, are setting the bar for others to follow by expanding their use of web conferencing to drive online teamwork and effective delivery of sales presentations. Levels of meeting ‘attendance' are often higher when organisations hold briefings, conferences and training sessions using web conferencing and other services.

Productivity is also improved. The hours employees would have spent travelling can be put to better use. Jobs get done more quickly, which benefits both the employer and the employee. If people can meet overseas clients and suppliers without having to fly to meet them, they might be able to close four to five deals in a week, as opposed to just one. And if people aren't away from home as often, their work-life balance is improved. The need to work evenings or weekends to catch up on time lost on the road is reduced.

Essentially, introducing this kind of technology changes business processes and the very way in which people work. Many of BT's people now work in virtual teams whose members are distributed around the world. When they need to get together to discuss something, more often than not they'll use our conferencing services to do so. It's much more convenient, much more flexible and it quickly engenders both a team spirit and trust.

And the bottom line benefits? At UK supermarket Tesco, staff who use audio conferencing services save an average of £300 a meeting on travel expenses and free up 3.97 hours of ‘on the road' time to do more productive work. ‘Attending' an average of 3.55 conference calls a week, staff save a total of 584,824 hours per year by not having to travel to meetings.

The returns on investment are significant and quickly feed through to the bottom line. BT asked independent researchers from the University of Bradford and SustainIT to assess the benefits it obtained from conferencing in 2006-07. Based on employee surveys, they estimated that our people used audio and video conferencing services to hold around 850,000 meetings that would otherwise have required some or all of them to travel to the selected venue. What they described as "conservative calculations" suggested that, by eliminating about 2.6 million return journeys, time worth more than £100 million had been made available for more productive use. More than 73% of BT conferencing users believed they had saved at least three hours of travel time and 46% of the trips would have been car. It estimated that BT saves at least £128 million by using conference technology, while each physical meeting conducted by videoconferencing saves £432. 

When it comes to building a low carbon economy, the environmental benefits are equally significant. The researchers found that 97,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions had been avoided through reduced travel. What's more, these benefits weren't a one off. Year in, year out, money will be saved, our people will work more productively and CO2 emissions will be reduced. 

So yes - we are in a period of constraint at the moment. But that doesn't mean companies can't use this time to streamline their operations and shape themselves for the future. Sure, they may need all the help they can get. But they may also find that a downturn in business, far from being a bad time to think about change, may well be exactly the right time to transform the ways they work. Perhaps it's time for more organisations to heed conferencing's call.

Aaron McCormack is CEO at BT Conferencing

John Konczal examines how today's telecom providers must accommodate the   explosive demand for new digital content through business alliances

Consumer demand for digital content and value-added services is transforming telecom service providers into the new super-enablers of the digital economy.  While revenue opportunities from these new products and services are sizable and promising, introducing them to the telecommunication service provider's current business platform is not without its operational challenges. 

If the telecom service providers are going to grasp the new revenue opportunities of the digital economy they will need to have secure, flexible business processes and systems to collaborate and connect with new value-chain partners and drive new offers, such as personalised digital content, to consumers.

To offer new products and services to consumers, a new market of converged sectors of communications, media, and entertainment has had to emerge: something that can be termed as the mediacosm.

This mediacosm is now forcing the telecom service providers to restructure the business models and processes they rely on to source, market, sell and deliver products and services. In fact, to compete effectively in the new market, telecom service providers' business strategies are now beginning to mimic those of world-class retailers rather than that of manufactures.

Telecom service providers have traditionally relied on manufacturing-driven business models using a "flat" business flow and revenue model. This means that the communications service provider buys equipment and services from suppliers, integrates them into the service provider's network, and bills the end-user for products and services delivered.  In such single-dimension models, there is very little, if any, development collaboration with business partners on what products, services and content are delivered to customers.

However, significant changes in service provider strategy, backed by new open network technology, such as service delivery platforms, are driving telecom service providers to embrace a multi-dimensional business collaboration model, much like what world-class retailers use, as the core enabler of the mediacosm. World-class retailers, whose end products are an amalgam of intermediate goods and end products from partners and suppliers rely heavily on business collaboration to drive their revenue stream.

For telecom service providers to become the super enablers of the digital economy involves thinking, operating and measuring progress like a retailer. For example, an electronics superstore may collaborate with a personal computer manufacturer to develop a laptop with specific features, branding, and supply-chain integration for the store to market and sell the laptop to consumers.  In this case, the value-added product provider (the computer company) and the direct-to-consumer retailer (the electronic superstore) connect, communicate, and collaborate throughout the product introduction process in order to bring the custom laptop to market.

Realisation of the Mediacosm involves having in place business collaboration platforms where third party organisations, such as digital media companies, can plug their products and processes into the telecommunication service provider's business platform. This will enable seamless integration and the delivery of new offers to the consumers with the telecommunication service provider's network.  A telecommunication service provider's transformation into a super-enabler, as well as one which generate increased revenue, will depend on its ability to diversify its product portfolio by building a broad and deep business collaboration network of digital content and value-added service providers.

To generate these new revenue streams and to offer new services to consumers, many telecom service providers will embrace new business relationships and partnerships with content and service vendors, partners, and suppliers in order to bring a diversified set of products and services to market.

As a by-product of this strategy, a complicated mix of inter-relationships will evolve where both simultaneous collaboration and competition between telecom service providers and vendors, content owners and application/software providers will emerge.

Expertly managing this rich and complex ecosystem of partnerships will be an essential objective for telecom service providers. Those that will be successful in capitalising on the opportunity of the mediacosm will be the ones that deploy and employ technology and business capabilities that allow a telecom service provider to seamlessly integrate with multiple enterprises and enable automated collaboration between value chain partners. This will enable them to source content and value-added service from multiple points and manage business relationships in a flexible manner.

To become super enabler, telecom service providers like AT&T and British Telecom are focusing greater attention on multi-enterprise integration - or building an extended community of business partners and suppliers to bring new products and services to market and enhance how products and services are sold and distributed.

‘The best companies are the best collaborators. In the flat world, more and more business will be done through collaborations within and between companies, for a very simple reason: The next layers of value creation-whether in technology, marketing, biomedicine or manufacturing-are becoming so complex that no single firm or department is going to be able to master them alone.'
The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman, 2005

Thomas Friedman's observation above is actually an accurate description of the environment in which a successful telecom service provider operates in the age of the mediacosm. No business works as a single unit. Each one is comprised of partners and suppliers with whom it connects, communicates and collaborates with to drive positive business results for all involved.

This business collaboration produces greater efficiencies throughout the organisation and, more importantly, allows innovation to emerge to a degree that would never be possible under traditional organisational structures. It is the secure, reliable and seamless integration of people, processes and technology-and the vast potential this integration holds for a business to optimise existing resources throughout its value chain - that gives a company the  power to reshape its strategy and remain competitive.

Not only has technology levelled the playing field by making the exchange of information a universal capability, but this capability empowers companies to work together in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. Telecom service providers now rely more and more on business collaboration networks to connect, communicate and collaborate with their partners and suppliers to bring new content and value-added service to market. This means that every participant in the network - not just the organisation at the hub - reaps the benefits of orchestrated business collaboration that allows them access to expertise and information from beyond their own corporate walls. It also enables innovation that drives and optimises customer experience and ultimately, revenue growth.

In summary, a proper multi-enterprise integration solution should allow service providers to react to market dynamics quickly and with very little effort. As a gateway, it must be able to talk to any system a provider has in place today and any communication method a provider's business partners might support. As a process enabler, it should allow a service provider to quickly assemble offers to meet the needs of fickle consumers. As a visibility and collaboration tool, it should enable more efficient ways of giving a service provider and the provider's partners better insight into your business operations. As a means to governance, it should track and record every transaction end to end, at any granularity needed to support the business. And, finally, as a security tool, it should protect against fraud, theft, revenue leakages, and liability.

"Multi-enterprise integration isn't the goal, but it supports the goal... Automating such business activities helps drive bottom-line revenue via reduced errors, reduced cost of operations and faster process execution... It also drives top-line revenue via lowering barriers to automation, improving customer and external business partner satisfaction, and increased "stickiness" once automated processes and data exchanges are implemented.'
Gartner, Inc., "Key Issues for Multienterprise B2B Integration," February 2009.

The emergence of the mediacosm is transforming how telecom service providers are structured and how they operate. In the near future, most telecom service providers are likely to be more virtual than physical. Companies may be composed of alliances among many different providers that come together to offer products and services, rather than doing most things in-house.  As the pace of change continues to accelerate, one thing is certain for business in the 21st century: successful telecom service providers will be those that have productive business collaboration, inside and outside their enterprise, to deliver the right products and services to their customers the way they want to receive them.
John Konczal is Global Industry Executive, Communications & Media, Sterling Commerce

Empirix/Manx Telecom
Manx Telecom, part of the Telefónica S.A. group and the Isle of Man's largest telecommunications and Internet provider, has deployed Empirix Hammer XMS to provide service quality assurance for its new IMS network. Over the next 18 months Manx Telecom will transition from its existing PSTN and ISDN infrastructure to an IMS network. During that timeframe it will use Empirix's Hammer XMS system to provide ongoing service monitoring throughout the network.

"We realized early on that we would need an independent monitoring system to manage the complexities that IMS introduces into our network," says Jon Huyton, technical officer, who is leading Manx Telecom's migration to IMS. "We were impressed with Hammer XMS because it addressed all of our needs in terms of functionality, working virtually ‘out of the box,' and ease of use. Most importantly, Hammer XMS provided detailed, end-to-end reports on calls as they traversed from the PSTN on to the IMS network, which was a task we were expecting to have to compile manually."

Manx Telecom selected Empirix's Hammer XMS following extensive system tests on its live IMS network. The deciding factors included Empirix's ability to deliver a comprehensive view of both TDM and IMS network operations, real-time monitoring of call flows, as well as fast set-up and flexibility to customize monitoring rules and reports.

Hammer XMS enables network operations and quality engineers to drill down from high level views of the network to granular details of individual call paths. In addition, Hammer XMS creates snapshots of normal network activity that quality engineers can reference when errors occur. These capabilities will enable Manx Telecom to identify and rectify errors, before they cause customer issues.  These monitoring capabilities will also help Manx Telecom ensure that it continues to meet quality targets set out in Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which are very important as a large proportion of the operator's revenue comes from businesses, including many financial services companies.

Andy Belcher, Empirix's managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa comments: "Known as an industry innovator, Manx Telecom's decision to focus on service quality assurance early on in their IMS rollout is proof that leading operators realize that proactively ensuring service quality is critical to their competitive differentiation and commitment to their customers."
www.empirix.com

Transmode/3 Scandinavia
Mobile services provider 3 Scandinavia needed to build its network capacity to ensure no bottlenecks were created as applications become more data hungry and more widely used. The company manages its own wireless backhaul infrastructure across Denmark and Sweden comprising several interconnected optical rings.

Mobile data traffic is undoubtedly growing phenomenally but the older SDH/ATM networks have inherent technical limitations that prevent cost efficient capacity increases. IP /Ethernet is often the best solution here, as it provides high capacity upgrades at a relatively low cost.

After evaluating various options, 3 Scandinavia decided to deploy Transmode's iWDM solution. Over the past year, Transmode's Multiservice Muxponder (MS-MXP) has been deployed across its Danish and Swedish networks. The MS-MXP has allowed 3 Scandinavia to deploy multiple services over a single 4 Gbit/s CWDM or DWDM wavelength.

Transmode's Multi-Service Backhaul Solution, including its iWDM capabilities offers transparent synchronization support for native TDM and Ethernet traffic. And both the native TDM and Ethernet traffic can be transported using only one single wavelength.

Håkan Snis, 3 Scandinavia's Transmission Engineering Manager explained the significance the company's improved mobile backhaul capabilities.

"Our decision to deploy Transmode equipment was not only based on cost, although there were obvious cost benefits. 3 Scandinavia had previously enjoyed several years' successful co-operation with Transmode in the previous phases of our network development and we were very pleased with the reliability of these systems."

"Since January 2008, which marked the start of the latest phases of 3 Scandinavia's development program, our requirements have been for significantly increased capacity as well as the technical means to cater for a smooth and cost-efficient migration from TDM-based transport to a future-proof IP transport model."

Sten Nordell, CTO at Transmode, comments: "Our Multi-Service Muxponder is especially designed to fit the various traffic formats available in the mobile network. Ethernet, TDM and ATM traffic can be aggregated and delivered over a single wavelength which ensures capacity can grow to match future demand without changing the optical infrastructure."
www.transmode.com

    

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