Networks & Service Platforms
There are many ISPs in the market, and they provide services to clients via so-called access networks. Access networks are telecommunication networks which provide connectivity and access to services like telephony, radio, television and internet. Traditionally, these services are offered via copper, and coaxial cabling and are nowadays combined with fiber techniques and wireless networks. Wireless networks have traditionally been used for the reception of radio and television and for business applications such as radio-telephony services for police forces and fire departments. These radio networks have an important attribute in common as services can be delivered independent of the location. Today, wireless networks are not limited to radio, television and business use but are part of everyday life. The operation of appliances, automobiles and internet is also increasingly depending on wireless networks.
Digitalization and Traffic Growth
With the rise of digital technology in the ‘90s, more and more digital services became available with high quality. Examples include high-definition (HD) television, IPTV, and streaming audio and video over broadband internet. With the rise of cloud services in the office and home environment, data usage on access networks has grown steadily.
The figure below shows an overview of this growth in internet traffic on fixed networks.
Consumers and companies have grown accustomed to the continuous availability of broadband services. However, neither traditional copper networks nor wireless networks were originally designed and dimensioned for massive continuous broadband usage. To meet the increasing demand for capacity a technical network evolution is going on in both fixed and wireless networks.
In this evolution digital techniques are used to increase the capacity, and to benefit even further from combining glass and copper technology and by redesigning / segmenting networks. Other initiatives exist to replace the copper networks between service providers and customers with a fiberglass connection, which increases the capacity by many times for both business and residential customers. This way the network is no longer the bottleneck.
For radio and mobile networks the capacity is increased not only by the use of digital technologies but also by providing more radio capacity (frequency spectrum) to service providers. An example is the introduction of digital LTE networks and the associated LTE frequency spectrum usage auction by a European country. The figure below shows the increase of internet traffic on mobile networks.
The market of fixed infrastructure is on one hand characterized by consolidation of infrastructure and on the other by the use of new technologies offering new opportunities. This implies the consolidation of the current copper network infrastructure, but also expanding the capabilities of this network with new technologies such as the various DSL/HFC versions and development of COAX and FTTH.
Broadband is a hot issue today with bandwidth increases and its reflection in total traffic across the globe. Strong growth in data traffic is better explained by the increased consumption per connection/user, rather than via increase in broadband penetration. In addition, the rollout of mobile broadband also contributes to increased broadband demand in fixed networks.
Fixed networks provide reliable broadband connections in the business market, for mobile installation points and to other wholesale buyers. In the business market, there are developments in the field of Ethernet VPN, added services on VPN (Voice, PIN, Alarm) and hosted voice.
Consumers demand more bandwidth and real-time services. As a result, the rollout of fiber has accelerated, and technologies like Docsis3.0 and VDSL make further use of the existing infrastructures of COAX and copper.
The emergence of over-the-top providers like Google, Skype, and Facebook is the main threat for telecom operators and service providers. These OTT providers feed on the services of carriers and threaten them to be reduced as bit-pipes for their customers, who in turn use the public internet for these applications at their fingertips.
Mobile broadband services have been offered by mobile operators for years, for example through 3G/HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) networks. Since 2011, a number of global operators have rolled out 4G/LTE (Long Time Evolution) networks as well. Following the successful auction of mobile frequencies in December 2012, operators are currently heavily investing in the rollout of the 4G mobile network.
With the arrival of LTE the mobile broadband service becomes similar to the broadband internet services offered by DSL and cable. A big advantage of mobile broadband is that a fixed connection to a network is not required and therefore broadband internet access is available everywhere.
It is also expected that usage of mobile broadband services will increase due to the upcoming availability of new mobile data equipment. For example, consider the increased functionality on smartphones and tablets and the LTE support of the latest devices. Laptops will, in addition to Wi-Fi, contain an adapter for mobile broadband networks. Also, wireless video surveillance or remote operation of equipment will be used more and more in combination with faster and more reliable mobile connections. Cooperation of operators, ISPs and suppliers are accelerating this development.
The question remains to what extent the users of these devices remain loyal to their existing operator. Smartphones provide better user experience than traditional feature phones, and this takes the user experience USP away from mobile operators.
Because consumers and business users alike are particularly interested in LTE due to its high data rates, an important consideration for them should be how well the network falls back on National LTE Roaming, 3G or Wi-Fi coverage for example.
Mobile-based email, internet and work from home will increase even further in popularity with both business users and consumers. The mobile evolution towards IP-based networks and applications provides new converged services such as complete mobile office environments for computer and telephony. For consumers triple play offers are available in mobile versions in addition to the existing versions via fixed networks.
Prodapt Consulting is active in many areas related to VoIP, hosted voice (IP Centrex) and IP interconnect. There are different standards for VoIP, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and provides a VoIP environment for the initializing and ending phone calls. ENUM is short for Electronic Number Mapping System and is originally developed to link numbers of end users to various IP services; it proves to be a very useful protocol for linking interconnecting VoIP networks of carriers.
At this moment SIP and ENUM are both dominant and de facto standards for VoIP. There are good reasons for this:
- SIP is future proof: in addition to voice, it can also be used as a protocol for video conferencing and instant messaging
- SIP en ENUM connect to existing Internet protocols
- ENUM is the standard adopted by 3GPP standardization to facilitate the translation from a phone number into a routable IP address
- There is a wide range of peripherals available for SIP
- Both major supplier / vendors of telecom equipment and the open source community provide different ENUM and SIP implementations
Prodapt Consulting has extensive experience in the implementation of SIP and ENUM projects:
- Consumer and business SIP implementations
- Peering based on ENUM and SIP-based platforms
- Number portability and ENUM
- Connectivity to network management and BSS/OSS systems
For a proof of concept of the peering platform for the members of the Joint Cable Campaign (JCC) – such as UPC, Ziggo, ZeelandNet and CAIW, Prodapt Consulting received a Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award.
Hosted Voice, also known as IP Centrex is a business telephone service where the customer does not have a telephone exchange (PBX) on site, but uses an exchange of a telecom operator as a cloud service.
For Hosted Voice Services a user group with special privileges is defined in the exchange. Users can call each other using abbreviated numbers and group numbers can be defined. Both fixed and mobile solutions are possible.
Some examples of Hosted Voice services are:
- Group number (Hunt Group)
- Receptionist circuit
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Call Center
Hosted Voice gives the customer control over his connections. The advantage is that the customer doesn’t need to purchase or maintain a PBX. The downside is that for internal telephony the company is dependent on the service provider.
A practical service is based on a telephone link to the Microsoft Outlook application. This makes it possible to call from the Outlook address book or from a received email. Also, a phone call can be combined with an online presentation. Conference calls can start from the agenda and everyone is called on time. Combined with working from home, Hosted Voice provides added value.
Hosted Voice and Fixed-Mobile integration
A special form of Hosted Voice is the combination with mobile telephony. This allows people to use the same services as in the office, independent of their location. It does not matter anymore for the employee if he makes or receives calls via his fixed phone or from their mobile phone.
Within various telecom operators, Prodapt Consulting has contributed to the introduction of Hosted Voice services. Functional requirements and detailed designs for Hosted Voice service delivery and provisioning systems (OSS) were created. The designs contain fully automated workflows of application servers, the underlying IMS infrastructure and SBC (Session Border Controllers) configuration. With these projects, Prodapt Consulting has successfully deployed its IT-OSS and network provisioning expertise.
IPTV and Video on Demand
IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television, watching television via a broadband (internet) connection. This TV technology was developed near the end of the 20th century and is used across the globe.
IPTV is often used to offer public television programs. A typical feature of IPTV is the user interaction. Where traditional one-way digital television services are offered to a large audience, IPTV enables new services that are user-specific. Examples of user-specific services include Video on Demand, Tele-Voting, Online Gaming and Home Shopping. Access to these services is possible through so-called “Red Button Functions”. Through this type of function the viewer can select a program, movie or extra service using his remote control. He can also perform functions like order products or vote on a favorite artist.
With the current platforms it is possible to offer special interest channels for specific target groups. It is also possible for a user to compose his personalized program offering and to get advice about upcoming programs based on viewing history and personal preferences. Services already available on the internet like sharing videos and photos become available on TV. Also video calling or remote video monitoring of small babies will become possible.
IPTV is suitable for network operators with a broadband IP network such as xDSL or fiberglass but also mobile data operators are offering IPTV services. IPTV provides digital television over IP, where often MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or VC-1 video encoding is used for broadcasting TV programs. IPTV use by cable operators is limited because in cable generally other technologies such as DVB-C are in use.
To offer IPTV a platform is needed that digitizes the programs (video content) and distributes it to end users. Users can select and view their program of choice via a set-top box, remote control and video screen.
Prodapt Consulting’s experience with converged services
By using digital and IP technologies in the different access networks, the difference between fixed and mobile network connections is getting smaller and the need emerges to provide services on all types of networks (convergence).
This desire to provide combined (converged) services requires new solutions for delivery over different access networks. The available network is therefore no longer the determining factor for the customer experience but rather the services platforms, supporting customer processes and BSS / OSS systems.
In the converged services area, Prodapt Consulting has knowledge and experience in service implementations across all types of networks. In addition, Prodapt Consulting is involved in the design and implementation of the underlying service platforms and BSS/OSS systems. This combination makes Prodapt Consulting a partner that can contribute to network-independent end-to-end solutions for converged services.