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Mind Share

January 2000

Marc Robins Something's Up Down Under


Telstra — leading Australian phone company and a major telecom player in the Asia Pacific Rim — embarking on an audacious program to migrate to a next-generation, IP-based backbone network. Established carriers the world over, who are looking to transform themselves into new, nimble-footed packet telephony providers, would be well advised to look South and watch closely.

In case you didn't know, Telstra Corporation Limited, is the 62nd largest organization in the world, and is larger than BellSouth in revenues. The company has annual revenues of $11 billion, a worldwide staff of 60,000, and operations in over 30 countries-- including a footprint in virtually every Asia Pacific Rim country, as well as an expanding presence in Europe and the Americas. In all, the company provides access to over 200 countries and offers customers a broad portfolio of services including long-distance, wireless, local, messaging, Internet services, information services, call center services, outsourcing, and all manner of advanced global telecommunications services. In a nutshell, the company's got game.

Telstra’s DMO, or “Data Mode of Operation” project, is an important blueprint for convergence in the carrier space. It represents a substantial effort at re-engineering an existing circuit-switched carrier network to enable the provisioning of next-generation packet-based data and voice services. One main objective of the DMO is to prepare Telstra for becoming a major player in the data/Internet revolution — the other is to provide a roadmap to making it all happen — with the review and selection of appropriate products and technology.
Telstra’s DMO study assessed the company’s business and operational visions and identified the necessary network and systems infrastructure required to support its future business. The study looked at the entire business context and infrastructure required to support it across all of Telstra’s markets from retail to wholesale, and identified the major business drivers in the data environment and the changing skills that Telstra will require to operate in the future.

The project was initially established to consolidate Telstra’s multiple data and Internet based networks and supporting systems into a single, new generation low-cost network, supported by an enhanced service managed capability — to meet the explosive growth in data and Internet products. Telstra has the capability of delivering service across a range of access technologies — dialup, HFC, xDSL, satellite, wireless — and is positioning its service offerings to be able to exploit them all. The end game for Telstra is not simply to provide connectivity, which it does already, but to be a major player in enhanced, value-added offerings as well.

Telstra has made it clear that for the foreseeable future, ATM will form a significant part of core carriage — although progressively more traffic may be carried as ‘IP over glass.’ Domestically, ATM has major points of presence in all capital cities with trunks in excess of 20,000 km circulating the Australian continent. POPs will be further expanded to major regional areas and a few selected international sites. Currently, ATM is extending to international links on bilaterals with the US, Japan, and Singapore, with extensions into the UK and Europe.

Telstra’s ATM network currently consists of multiple STM-1/OC-3 SDH rings on major trunking routes (i.e., 155M) with fully redundant transmission between nodes. Telstra’s ATM network is serving as a multiservice network for corporate WANs — facilitating the integration of voice, video, and data, and sold as a highly reliable and redundant service that provides a variety of QoS for any type of enterprise application. Down the road, Telstra expects to take advantage of the higher bandwidths offered by ATM to begin offering video applications for enterprise customers — the company expects the implementation of an OC-12/622M backbone next year with delivery of new Passport 15000 switches and STM-16/OC-48 for IP over SDH trunks. In the very near future, it will be the infrastructure for carriage of mass-market IP services.

Recently, Telstra announced the specifics of Phase One of the DMO, and identified the next generation network and systems infrastructure necessary to operate in this rapidly changing environment. The goal was to select technology that would not only meet the high growth in data traffic on the network from existing products now, but also provide new capabilities to support products that are on the horizon or not even dreamt of yet.

Telstra challenged the best technology companies in the world to show how they could help realize Telstra’s DMO vision through a very competitive selection process. They chose suppliers judged to be ‘best in class’ for each major component of the new generation DMO network, and that have shown an ongoing development program to maintain that position.

DMO contracts for the core network infrastructure were announced and included the following companies:

  • Nortel Networks will provide the core network, including Internet Protocol (IP) network, frame relay, ATM data network, and the Telstra Access Server solution technologies and systems integration;
  • Alcatel and Cisco Systems will supply Voice-on-IP technology;
  • Alcatel will provide the next-gen network management solutions; and
  • Lucent Technologies will provide the dial gateways and associated signaling gateways and extend the existing dialup IP reach.

A number of elements of the network solution are already in place. The introduction of network-based IP services such as VPNs will be available within 12 months and the access server capabilities in a shorter timeframe. Telstra will also be making announcements in the near future regarding its broadband access directions (including HFC and DSL). Further announcements will be made throughout the year as Telstra selects partners for the deployment of broadband access and enhanced services management.

This past December, Telstra introduced a new wholesale VoIP service, enabling international carriers and emerging Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) to transmit voice calls via the Internet. Telstra’s existing international circuit-based network currently provides access to more than 200 countries and generates over $200 million annually through the provision of global voice services to international wholesale customers.

The new VoIP service will enhance Telstra’s global wholesale business by enabling Internet Service Providers (ISPs) currently offering IP connectivity to expand their service offerings with voice products, as well as providing Telstra’s existing international wholesale customers with more innovative solutions for delivery of voice traffic throughout the world. Working in partnership with a number of vendors, including Clarent Corporation, Telstra’s VoIP solutions will provide a range of choices for delivery of voice services, from integration of VoIP with traditional networks to full end-to-end delivery via the Internet.

Companies will also have the choice of accessing reliable and competitive PSTN least-cost routes over the Internet, or have the traffic cleared by Telstra over IP routes. Telstra will also use Internet technology to develop fully integrated VoIP clearinghouse facilities as well as online services enabling global wholesale customers to access real-time information such as billing, data, usage, and capacity profiles directly from Telstra.

Telstra selected Clarent Corporation’s Signaling System 7 gateway products, the Clarent Command Center, and other Clarent back-end products to build a state-of-the-art IP telephony network. Telstra will also benefit from forming minutes exchange partnerships with other large Clarent carrier customers around the world.

Marc Robins is Associate Group Publisher for INTERNET TELEPHONY AND CTI magazines. His column, Mind Share, appears monthly in the pages of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine. Marc looks forward to your feedback.

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