Cashing in on the telecom transition

With the rise of Web 2.0, user interactivity has gone a notch higher, with video playing a major role in this IP-based technology revolution. Cisco's Sharat Sinha, director of service provider business for Asia Pacific, outlines what service providers need to know to identify and prepare for the next killer application

Telecom Asia: What is your view of what's happening today in the telecommunications industry‾

Sharat Sinha: One of the favorite buzzwords in the telecommunications industry is 'convergence.' Traditionally, telecommunications companies have been divided roughly into three large groups based on their particular service and type of network they use: the phone or 'wireline' companies; the cable TV companies with coaxial video networks; and the mobile phone companies with their wireless infrastructure.

Then there are new players entering the market that do not have an old network that categorizes them. They have high-speed fiber optic networks using the latest Internet infrastructure and other networking technology. They can offer everything from phone service to internet access to HDTV.
But because of the internet, the development of IP as a foundation for all types of communications, all of these providers are converging into one, combined communications network that is IP-based and has capability to carry all mediums: voice, data and video.
If you started a telecommunications company today, it wouldn't have to offer just telephone service or cable TV or wireless communications. Using one network, based entirely on IP, it could offer all of those services.

This is why we now refer to the wide range of different telecommunications companies as 'service providers.' These companies are no longer defined by their network infrastructure or the service that infrastructure supports.

What role has the internet played in the changes taking place in the telecommunications industry‾

The internet has been the fundamental equalizer of this change. When the internet came along, it did a few things. It started to create a global network that could tie all other data networks, such as those at universities or those run by a telecommunications company, together. The second thing the internet did was to drive the need for broadband.

Internet and resulting VoIP technology led to a decrease in long-distance voice tariffs. This led service providers to look for alternative revenue streams, leading to broadband and, finally, video services like IPTV to monetize their investments in infrastructure.

Now, IP video is becoming more and more common, with picture quality at acceptable, even excellent, levels. But they want more. They know they can get more.

What is Cisco doing to help service providers cope with the demands of consumers‾

Cisco's heritage in IP technologies has put us in a position to help our service provider customers not only build the network infrastructure to support the holy grail of quad-play services - data, voice, video and mobility - but also to help them develop services that diversify their revenue streams while reducing operational costs.

Through acquisition and internal innovation, Cisco has developed an architecture, called the Cisco IP NGN that helps service providers with the development and delivery of application- and subscriber-aware services for today's demanding consumers.

 

Video has been one of the key drivers in the rise of the internet. Today's video subscribers want choices, personalization, content sharing across communities and, often, instant gratification. They are no longer content to be just viewers; they are now producers or distributors, empowered by the worldwide IP network.

This shift to 'Video 2.0' recognizes that the network is now a 'platform' driving the creation and interactive use of customized content for individuals and communities.

For today's service providers, it's all about personalized IP service bundles that integrate video, VoIP, internet access, messaging, gaming and audio entertainment applications requiring dynamic multicasting, advanced QoS, and policy management. This requires a new approach to service control at the network edge.

Cisco has also invested heavily in R&D, as well as in acquisitions, to develop IP-based technologies for service-provider infrastructure, enterprise networks as well as home networking, which has helped in meeting the growing communication needs of consumers

Singapore's NGN Broadband Network will be one of the landmark telecommunications projects in the next 12 months. What are the technology considerations‾

This project has the potential to propel Singapore ahead of the likes of Korea and Hong Kong in the technology stakes, so it's really important for the Singaporean government to make the right technology decision.

The two main technologies that are in discussion right now are metro Ethernet and PON (passive optical network). Both have their pros and cons, but metro Ethernet is the better option to meet the needs of Singapore for three reasons: speed and bandwidth symmetry, security, and open network access.

What will determine which service providers succeed in the telecommunications revolution‾

Survival and success in this new era boils down to a few basic characteristics. First, they have to be nimble. Services are evolving rapidly. Instant messaging, picture phones, municipal Wi-Fi networks; these things did not exist just a couple of years ago. Now they are everywhere. Regardless of your size or network structure, you need to be ready and anticipate what the hot new services will be.

The second characteristic that I believe any successful service provider must have is a strong stomach for risk because the investments necessary to make it through this transition are challenging, to say the least. The winners will have to make the bets that put them ahead of competitors. Speed of service deployment is everything these days.

Finally, they need to have the operational capabilities to deploy and manage all of these systems. These services must be as dependable as the telephone before mainstream citizens adopt them.

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