November 20, 2012
PSTN Transition is Four-Dimensional Chess
Four dimensional chess is as good a way as any of describing the issues that will have to be confronted in a transition from legacy Time Division Multiplex to Internet Protocol networks.
Competitive service providers will worry about any changes to current common carrier obligations that have a key impact on business models, both for other facilities-based carriers, as well as for contestants that use a mix of wholesale and owned facilities.
Essentially, the issue will boil down to whether service providers can purchase connectivity services as “mandated by regulation” or at market driven rates. Supporters of a less intrusive approach might point to the success of Internet peering, while opponents might worry that the largest networks will charge higher prices to competitive carriers.
In principle, the transition from an older network to a newer network is well understood. The industry has done so many times, migrating from analog to digital switching, and now shifting to IP switching and transmission. The mobile industry is on its fourth generation of networks.
Of course, the transition to IP is not merely a matter of technology, and the fundamental assumptions about the market are now different. Virtually, all communications markets are competitive and all networks need to interconnect, but the terms and conditions could be an issue in the transition from TDM to IP.
Some see problems with a move to more flexible IP models. Among those participants are smaller and competitive service providers that routinely must interconnect with the largest U.S. networks, or which rely on wholesale products purchased from the largest providers.
Though some might bristle at the notion of AT&T (News - Alert) not wanting to spend unwarranted sums upgrading its highest-cost access lines, the reality is that there are other ways to provide broadband access to isolated and very high cost locations that were not available when the regulatory framework for voice services originally was created.
It should come as no surprise that AT&T believes the Federal Communications Commission should substantially deregulate many important elements of its fixed network framework as the public switched telephone network is shut down and replaced by an Internet Protocol driven replacement.
AT&T argues that the FCC (News - Alert) itself has concluded that universal service itself should focus on broadband access, not voice service. The corollary is that all applications and services in the future will be IP-based, and should therefore use frameworks that have proven to work in all IP application businesses.
Given that about 4.5 dollars are earned in the global telecom business for every one dollar of fixed network revenue, some might argue that regulators should be careful about applying onerous regulations on a business that already has been eclipsed by wireless, as well as might arguably be described as a declining business.
Among the steps seen as “critical” is a definite and firm deadline for ending all requirements related to the old PSTN, a step that would encourage investment in the new network and also encourage customers to switch.
AT&T also prefers that all carrier services be regulated using the IP-enabled services framework, which would make telco-provided applications “information services” subject to minimal regulation only at the federal level.
All of that will be opposed by at least some segments of the communications business, especially those firms competing with the likes of AT&T. No matter what rules eventually are adopted, the transition from TDM to IP networks will be complicated, not so much in a technology sense as a business framework sense.
In related VoIP news, Patton (News - Alert) Electronics recently revealed its all-new customer service support system, including its new platinum-level Premium Support and platinum-plus Premium 24/7 Support services, which take the company’s already unparalleled gold-standard free support to an unbelievable new level. Already offering free lifetime technical support is rare in itself, but by working with Patton-Inalp (Switzerland), Patton Electronics (USA) is extending its lifetime technical support with global 24x7 coverage – something that is even rarer in the electronic-telecommunications industry.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo