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Challenges Telcos Face

July 2nd, 2004 · No Comments

Bob Cringely has some advice for telcos planning to build packet-switched networks from scratch (in place of their existing circuit-switched networks):

The telcos need to pick their battles, which to me means that they need to concentrate on two main technologies — one existing technology and one new one. The existing technology is plain old telephone service, which they should be able to keep competitive with VoIP by controlling costs. The other technology is entertainment — music and video. Everyone from Microsoft to Intel to Apple sees digital content delivery as the next big business, and I just think that the telephone companies and their circuit-switched networks are in a prime position to dominate that industry.

Huh?

Other than the fact that it is already paid for, the advantage of a circuit-switched network is its massive total bandwidth. While 64 kbps per circuit seems pitiful in a world of DSL and cable modems, if viewed from the perspective of the total network, it really isn’t, because all of those 64 kbps channels can operate at the same time. Broadband providers typically provision about 11 kbps per broadband subscriber, meaning the circuit switched network actually has six times the total capacity of a comparable packet network.

The telcos need to pick their battles, which to me means that they need to concentrate on two main technologies — one existing technology and one new one. The existing technology is plain old telephone service, which they should be able to keep competitive with VoIP by controlling costs. The other technology is entertainment — music and video. Everyone from Microsoft to Intel to Apple sees digital content delivery as the next big business, and I just think that the telephone companies and their circuit-switched networks are in a prime position to dominate that industry.

Huh?

Other than the fact that it is already paid for, the advantage of a circuit-switched network is its massive total bandwidth. While 64 kbps per circuit seems pitiful in a world of DSL and cable modems, if viewed from the perspective of the total network, it really isn’t, because all of those 64 kbps channels can operate at the same time. Broadband providers typically provision about 11 kbps per broadband subscriber, meaning the circuit switched network actually has six times the total capacity of a comparable packet network.

We’re not talking here about making a network for the quick download of new Linux distributions. You can’t make bandwidth out of nothing. We are talking about creating an application for transmitting video-on-demand over a circuit switched network. Circuit switching inherently gives you all the advantage of on-demand, like the ability to view a show when you like, to fast-forward, stop, or reverse it. Yes, those capabilities are available on other networks, too, but not if everyone does it at the same time and especially not is everyone is watching something different, which is actually pretty much impossible on those networks but they never mention that part.

What we need to emulate here is the eye, itself. Look at the optic nerve that connects the retina of your eye to the visual cortex of your brain. The optic nerve is composed of approximately one million stringy cells called ganglia that fire in parallel over a distance of two to three centimeters with the actual visual signal travelling at about 4,400 feet-per-second. Taking into account recovery time between signals, the optic nerve has a total bandwidth of approximately 100 kbps.

100 kbps!!!! That’s all the bandwidth we have available to appreciate HDTV and IMAX? We see the world through a pinhole that small?

Yup. So sending DVD-quality video down a 64 kbps line shouldn’t be impossible at all.

Tags: Telecom

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