Thursday, May 03, 2012

Key Issues Switching From TDM To IP Networks

When considering the question of whether to switch from a TDM based network to an IP network you must not forget to include the most important aspect of telecom service. I refer to .... provisioning, billing plattform sofware system, core help desk, and other systems I may have forgot to mention. Migrating to IP impacts everything in this sense.

A key issue is that most phone companies legacy infrastructure, especially incumbent ones, are tied to legacy systems which most of them pre-date the internet , including packet switching services.

Migrating to NGN or IP means impacting also the whole nework layout conceived for provisioning and billing, also CRM (Customer Relations Management) Software.
We are talking big money here and that could take 40% or more of the OPEX and CAPEX.

As you can see it is not only an issue of bits and bytes or hardware.

Migrating to IP also means impacting the labor unions, and that´s not an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, training , etc.

There are some major impediments for telecom companies to migrate from the present mixed networks - TDM / IP Core - to an all IP network, besides the technical flaws already pointed out in various trade magazines and forum discussions.

Retraining the huge labour force would be a major task, if ever this was to happen.
The huge sums that would have to be incurred would not be recovered in the forseeable future, and ROI would be non-existent.

There is an inherent weakness in technologists like us. Every time we see a new technology emerging and being propagated we think the end of the road has come for the presently used ones, without examining the pros and cons. Tried, tested, and stabilised methods of doing things are far more reliable and productive than fledgling technologies or even established technologies being adaptoped for applications for which they were never conceived in the in the first place.

Packet switching and IP are asynchronous communications ideally suited to handle bursty traffic. They were never designed or meant for real-time communications like voice, fax, video which call for synchronous communications and TDM fits the bill admirably.

The concept of packet voice (VoIP) was initially developed to communicate over the Global all IP network - the Internet - which had helped people to resolve their public data communications needs, and connect globally across borders. There were shortcomings in the quality, delays, etc. but this communication method served people to keep in touch with firends and kin, at no or little cost. So while such flaws could not serve the needs of business or serious voice / video communications which had to be done over Global TDM networks, VoIP served the needs of informal personal communications. Skype also facilitates free video calls over the Internet.

With this development technologists set to work to see if the same technique could be adopted for normal telephony. Despite the billions of dollars spent in this effort, the results have been far from satisfactory as we have seen from this and a previous discussion thread comparing the quality of VoIP - PSTN.

When the TDM telephony business started to saturate - 5 billion+ in a population base of 7 billion+ - some manufacturers got together to propagate the all IP network with the technology at its present level, to create business for themselves, and managed to convince some telephone company administrators to move in that direction. Hence the NGN initiative. However, now that the futility of this effort has been exposed by the trials in BT and AT&T, I do hope all proponents of this initiative will put a stop to further wasteful expenditure on this initiative. Manufacturers instead should invest in the R&D of TDM equipment and generate business in this area. There is growth potential in this also, through replacements and upgrades, besides increase in requirements. We did move from Strowger to ESS and beyond. This is the line to pursue not the softswitches and related equipment required for the all IP networks. This will not happen in the forseeable future.

They should realize that no Telco will discard working and functional equipment to move into a disruptive technology that an all IP network is. Manufacturers who think that they can force the arms of the Telco administrations by not making TDM equipment available to service existing equipment and incremental expansions, are asking for trouble and could put themselves out of business altogether. They would not do that, and will continue to supply TDM equipment and spend money on improvements and R&D, to reduce costs, real estate requirements, etc. They should remember TDM is here to stay for all serious real-time communications like voice / fax / quality video.

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