TECH TALK: Next-Generation Networks: The Future

Peter Sevcik, president of NetForecast, lays out the forces that are shaping next-generation networks:

Innovation Moves Up And Out: The bulk of technical innovation is shifting from network cores and low-layer protocols to the edge and upper-layer protocols. This movement up-and-out is both a natural progression of the TCP/IP success story and a byproduct of core network scale. The core is huge, must operate non-stop, and is built out of optical components and ASICs. The core cant change quickly any more But the edge is still fast-changing software running on general-purpose computers. These innovations are strictly focused on Layer 4 and above, where the news is what it doesthe applicationrather than how its done.

Technology Lock-Down: Big carriers have power, and they are finding new ways to use it. They are using their purchasing clout and customer base to go back to forcing the consumer to buy the terminal with the service.

Power Concentration: Even as carriers are working to lock down the technology, big players of all sorts are moving to consolidate their market power in the networks of the futureFor starters, not only are carriers exercising dictatorial control over their own networks, theyre also seeking to extend their domination over the playing field on which those networks compete. Not content simply to wield monopoly control over the last-mile copper (and soon fiber), the incumbents are fighting any newcomers.

Regulation: Of course, the ultimate power player is the government, and its a sure bet that the Internet will not remain unregulated for much longer.

Conclusion: These forces are set to clash: Innovation against walled gardens. Business might against government power. Notice that technology has very little influence in shaping the future. The next generation networks will be defined by how the trends find temporary states of coexistence.

So, whats really changing? In the past (and true even now), there have been separate networks for voice, data and video. The phone system has carried our voice calls, while the Internet has been used for our data traffic. Video (especially TV) has relied on its own networks primarily a combination of cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcasting. What is changing now is that the shift is happening from vertically integrated networks to horizontally-integrated networks, which decouples the services from the transport layer.

We are seeing a fascinating evolution in the networks that connect our computers and mobile phones to services. On the wired networks, technologies like VDSL2 have the potential to dramatically increase the connectivity we have available at home and work. In the wired world, 3G networks are starting to get deployed. WiMax is also being touted as an alternative to 3G. For now, technologies like EV-DO offer hundreds of kilobits per second connectivity for the early adopters. Among other technologies, one which is getting increasing recent interest is Broadband over Power Lines (BPL).

In other words, NGN is all set to usher opportunity as disruption as the worlds of mobile and fixed networks collide. At the same time, they will also usher in a new dynamic in network-aware applications.

Next Week: NGN (continued)

TECH TALK Next-Generation Networks+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.