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TECH TALK: Next-Generation Networks: Convergence

July 25th, 2005 · No Comments

One of the conference tracks in CommunicAsia was on next-generation networks (NGN). NGN will have a big impact on the future of computing and communications as networks become converged, higher speed and ubiquitous, leading to the emergence of new services. In this series, we will explore NGN and discuss new applications. For countries like India, NGN offer a great opportunity to leapfrog to a state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure.

As we discussed in last weeks Tech Talk, South Koreas IT839 initiative offers some insights into tomorrows world of converged networks. As I wrote in my Business Standard column on CommunicAsia: Convergence is finally becoming a reality as the next-generation networks with all-IP cores are making it possible to have triple play services (voice, data and video) flow over the same network. Convergence is also happening in terms of the fixed line and wireless worlds in both the networks and handsets. Convergence technology drivers include SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and IMS (IP Multimedia System). There will be a time soon when our handsets will support WiFi and GSM/CDMA, such that in hotspots they would use WiFi to make and receive calls, while at other locations they would use the cellular networks.

This is what I wrote in my Tech Talk on Disruptions recently: For the most part, voice has been carried separately from data, while video has had its own network. Now, it is all changing as next-generation networks built around IP at their core, and voice and video are digitised. Voice becomes yet another application as is already happening with VoIP, and network TV shifts to networked TV (to borrow a phrase from Esther Dyson). IMS, MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) and SIP are some of the building blocks for these networks.

While I use the term next-generation network more broadly, here is how the ITU defines NGN: a packet-based network able to provide telecommunication services and able to make use of multiple broadband, QoS-enabled transport technologies and in which service-related functions are independent from underlying transport-related technologies. It enables unfettered access for users to networks and to competing service providers and/or services of their choice. It supports generalized mobility which will allow consistent and ubiquitous provision of services to users.

The promise is clear: a converged world where we can get the applications and services we want where we want them and on the device of our choice. This has been the Holy Grail in the telecom world for many years, but finally things seem to be coming together.

Tomorrow: The Rationale

Tags: Tech Talk

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