Data Traffic Evolution: Telekom Austria at the cutting edge of the NGN migration process
By Helmut Leopold, Head of Platform and Technology Management, Telekom AustriaData traffic is increasingly overtaking voice traffic, posing unprecedented challenges for network operators in their quest to establish new network architecture to respond to this shift. The public switched telephone network (PSTN), which was implemented in the past and is based on circuit switched technology, has provided years of reliable service but it has never been optimised for data transport. In fact, circuit switched networks have evolved slowly compared to the rates of change associated with the computer industry. Therefore they cannot efficiently address the scale and flexibility required by the ‘bandwidth-hungry’ applications that will dominate the telecommunications world of tomorrow.
Besides voice services, a new breed of data-centric applications are taking center stage. These range from e-mail, short and multimedia messaging services (SMS, MMS), video chat, tailor-made information services (“my personal data”, “my favourite services”), video mailboxes to high-bandwidth applications based on peer-to-peer communication concepts, and video streaming as well as interactive Internet-TV applications focused on regional and customised content provisioning.
With rising demand for such intelligent and interactive multimedia services, network operators are currently looking at quick and efficient ways to adapt their legacy network infrastructure to the constantly evolving customer needs. Price war is no longer a viable and sustainable strategy to gain competitive edge. Future success lies rather in differentiated value-added service offerings that generate new revenue streams and address the specific expectations and needs of each target group. The classic process paradigm – vendor creates, operator implements, customer buys – no longer applies. Future-proof business models are based on customer-driven processes: demand dictates the time scale and the range of service and product roadmaps. Therefore, network providers need the ability to implement and customise services rapidly according to market dynamics (time-to-market) along with the flexibility to reshape and expand their product portfolio on an ongoing basis.
The entire telecommunications industry is facing a wrenching transition: next-generation data-centric services not only require more capacity in the network core but also new equipment on the edges of telecom networks. Therefore, network operators are increasingly overhauling their infrastructures to meet these new requirements. The watchwords are transformation and migration towards so-called ‘Next Generation Networks’ (NGN).
These buzz words ‘Next Generation Networks’ (NGN) may convey the impression of a brand new network technology, but in reality, NGNs represent the culmination of 100 years of telecommunications evolution. NGNs combine the proven reliability and guaranteed security of circuit-switched infrastructure with the flexibility and scalability of ‘best-efforts’ IP-based transmission technologies and thus encompass the best attributes of both worlds.
NGN technology is all about convergence: application convergence (voice and data applications); end-user interface convergence (multimedia enabled phones, SMS, MMS, e-mails on customer premise equipment (CPE), set top boxes (STB) as basis for interactive TV); infrastructure convergence (combination of traffic from multiple networks - voice, data, video - on a single IP-based backbone, convergence of optics and IP networks, introduction of multi-protocol label switching – MPLS, special traffic management features giving priority to some forms of traffic over others, to ensure the smooth interleaving of different services as well as the seamless translation and transition of traffic from and to various formats).
NGNs are based on standard open interfaces, which provide the possibility to select the best-of-breed vendor for each individual network layer and therefore benefit from free market pricing effects on all system levels as well as from separate innovation cycles. Open interfaces allow greater service flexibility, easy customisation and better time-to-market. At the same time they enable new business models by breaking up the traditional value chain into a number of different services, which can be supplied by different service providers.
NGN architecture is are based on packet-oriented transmission of both voice and data traffic, which allows flexible bandwidth dimensioning (bandwidth on demand) and leads to considerable efficiency gains both in terms of operating performance and cost management. Moreover, the convergence and reduction of network elements resulting in a simplification of the network architecture and consolidation of hardware enables more efficient software deployment and up-grades.
NGN is therefore a large-scale and long-term process aimed at safeguarding the future profitability of network operators by consolidating network infrastructure, reducing running costs, streamlining and optimising operational processes, and enhancing asset productivity while at the same time increasing revenue generation. Against a background of exponential bandwidth demand, competitive instability and disruptive economic pressure, it becomes obvious that the NGN implementation represents a particularly demanding and challenging undertaking for the entire telecommunications industry. The complexity of market dynamics and end-user environment requires that careful attention be paid to the basic steps of this migration process in order to ensure that valuable attributes of the ‘Last Generation Network’ are not lost in the haste of the journey. These include:
· Efficient migration of Internet traffic from the voice network (PSTN) to the multi-service data network, resulting in increased capacity utilization and operational improvement. · Wide availability of broadband access and universal ubiquitous end-user services: delivering services from a single platform enables new revenue streams and lowers costs of ownership thanks to simpler networking environments; · High-bandwidth backbone capacity on the basis of leading edge optical transmission technologies (for instance: WDM – Wavelength Division Multiplexing) · Customer management processes: simplification of all processes involved in the creation and self-management of new services by means of a management system that supports “zero-touch provisioning” or even customer self-provisioning. This results in increased margin and greater customer satisfaction. · Wholesale solutions: profit generation by reselling broadband overcapacity to alternative service providers, thus contributing to recouping investments in network infrastructure. However, there is no universal NGN solution. It is up to each network operator to evolve and implement its network at different rates depending on the state of its infrastructure, on the specific market situation, and especially on regulatory framework conditions.
Telekom Austria’s efforts have shown success. The company has already invested EUR 780 million and is planning to invest an equal amount over a five-year period. Investments in state-of-the-art infrastructure, innovation, research and development are of instrumental importance for the company's strategy aimed at guaranteeing its competitiveness not only in the domestic market but also internationally, especially in light of forthcoming EU enlargement. Therefore, the NGN ‘century project’ plays a crucial role for Telekom Austria. The company has already embarked on this long-term migration process accomplishing a number of preparatory measures:
Broadband rollout: Telekom Austria initiated its broadband rollout in 1999. With a total of 232,500 ADSL access lines (3Q 2003) and a broadband coverage of 85%, Telekom Austria ranks among the leading European incumbent operators in terms of broadband rollout. This provides a good basis for the company’s NGN services of tomorrow.
Optical backbone: By virtue of its pan European backbone network ‘Jet2Web Stream’, an optical DWDM ring with a capacity of 2 x 320 Gbit/s, Telekom Austria is increasingly positioning itself as telecommunications gateway between east and west and is acting as cross-border carrier providing both voice and data wholesale services to over 250 international telecommunications providers. The company has excellent and long-standing partnerships and business relations, not only to international alternative carriers, but also with the incumbents of the non-liberalized markets of the former Communist bloc such as Bulgaria, Belarus and Rumania along with other eastern and central European markets. Telekom Austria can therefore offer its customers a truly global reach.
NGN-OSS: The migration to new network architecture also requires a comprehensive rethinking of operating and business support systems (OSS/BSS), which dictate the process and the level of resources needed to operate these networks. In November 2003 Telekom Austria introduced a complex central monitoring and analysis system enabling rapid fault repair. This fault management system, created with the system integrator Unisys, has been implemented on all of Telekom Austria’s network platforms, making it one of the most complex technology projects in Europe. The new system represents a crucial step in the company’s broadband strategy in terms of service delivery and availability, and a cornerstone in the further development of Telekom Austria’s multiservice network infrastructure.
VOIP technologies: Telekom Austria has long focused its R&D activities on paving the way for tomorrow’s VOIP services. For instance, Telekom Austria is actively engaged in a number of international projects and, in particular, in the international ENUM project – Electronic Number Mapping. As the trend goes towards a world of ubiquitous communications – access to any service anywhere and at anytime – the need for a personal, unique and globally accessible network identifier becomes indispensable. There are several approaches to this problem. Telekom Austria is testing and developing the ENUM-approach proposed by the Internet Engineering Task Force.
Aon.tv: Based on the results of a European R&D project within the IST program (Information, Society, Technology) as part of the 5th Framework Program (5 FP) of the European Commission, Telekom Austria launched a commercial interactive multimedia service known as Aon.tv in June 2003. This interactive multimedia service based on the convergence of Internet and TV provides several live broadcasts including two channels of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF 1 and 2), Eurosport news, fashionTV, MCM and MTV live, along with content on demand from ORF programs, movies and movie trailers, music clips from major record companies such as Universal Music as well as video on demand.
Thanks to the company’s efforts to be at the cutting-edge of technological developments, Telekom Austria is well-equipped to take full advantage of next generation business opportunities and to meet the challenges lying ahead.
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