New Model Could Expedite, Ease Move to Ubiquitous, Billable Services
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
The Internet, and IP networks in general, have gone a long way toward expanding our world of communications. But we still have a ways to go. To allow end users to realize natural and universal communications, and enable facilities-based service providers to benefit in the process, the industry needs to move to Internet+.
Internet+ is a model being forwarded by Karl Stahl (News - Alert), who is the chairman of Intertex Data AB and CEO of Ingate. It enables real-time unified communications; introduces QoS and the ability for carriers to offer and bill for different levels of service; and allows for management and security, but in a way that separates those functions from the IP transport of a service. Based on SIP, Internet+ applies to both fixed and mobile networks.
With Internet+, service providers like the telcos will be able to move away from their flat-rate and all-you-can eat business models and introduce more premium-level connectivity so they can both deliver high levels of service to customers and continue to invest in their own networks.
“It’s the only way forward if we’re not going to be stuck in old-time telephony for the next 10 years,” says Stahl.
The revolution brought about by the Internet has been great, Stahl says, but when it comes to person-to-person, real-time communications, telephony still looks pretty much the same as it did 100 years ago. The tools and technologies exist to deliver something so much better, he says, yet IP-based networks basically replicate plain old telephony. That’s a big problem, he adds, because telcos, which to date have been in a protective mode, are suffering as a result – they’ve gotten onto this track where they don’t know how to earn money and compete.
Today, telephone companies keep information about who owns what telephone number to themselves, Stahl adds. But if you know the SIP address of an endpoint, it’s easy to send traffic. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules on intercarrier compensation have helped cement the current model in which telcos treat telephone numbers as they do. But now that the FCC (News - Alert) is making changes to intercarrier compensation, service providers will need to look to end users as opposed to each other for revenue, and they’ll need to measure what’s happening at user endpoints to make that happen.
“We need to move forward,” Stahl continues. “We need to talk SIP end to end without interfering with the application.” And, he adds, there must be a way for service providers to charge for all of this.
“This is the way it should be done,” says Stahl. “We can move forward. You can do this.”
Of course, you do have the relative newcomers like Skype (News - Alert) that already are leveraging new networks to deliver services like videoconferencing. But Stahl notes that these kinds of solutions also fall short of what they could be. That’s because most of today’s services of this type exist on technological islands, he says, and because they’re not natural – for example, users often have to e-mail or call one another on the phone first to alert each other as to when a teleconference will commence.
Some in the industry have suggested that, at least for the telcos, IMS is the best route to IP-based voice and enhanced services. But while many of the world’s largest telcos have embraced the IMS approach, investments in this technology have seen wild fluctuations, and there’s been a lot of talk about the complexity of IMS.
Stahl says that Internet+ provides a much cleaner and easier approach.
“The problem with IMS was that it was too complicated to ever be implemented or finished,” he says. “It didn’t benefit from the Internet architecture. And it replicated an overlay network, which is all wrong in an IP world.”
Internet+, meanwhile, extends the Internet a bit, applies Internet thinking, and provides a standard real-time interface for users and servers. And the infrastructure needed to get to Internet+ costs just a fraction of what is spent on POTS replication over IP today.
“You do about a tenth of [the work and investment] you do with IMS,” adds Stahl.
Operators already have many of the pieces in place for Internet+, says Stahl, they just need to add TOQrouters, and formulate strategies to pull it all together.
Service providers that are doing SIP trunking are already half way there when it comes to Internet+, Stahl says. The next step, he explains, is for these carriers to implement infrastructure and processes that allow them to do billing from the point of origination rather than billing from a central point in the network. That way, calls can be routed to endpoints rather than routed to an overlay network, and service providers have more flexibility in billing.
Central to the Internet+ model is what Stahl calls the TOQrouter, which is effectively a “clever” E-SBC. TOQ stands for trust, open, quality.
The TOQrouter includes a SIP proxy used for routing calls and messages directly between endpoints as well as for delivering communications to users on LANs or 3G or 4G phones (resolving the firewall/NAT traversal issues without requiring work-around methods). In this scenario, the service provider issues CA (News - Alert)-signed certificates for trust, using mutual TLS between all SIP proxies on the WAN side. The same certificates can be used to meter and to deliver CDRs for billing. Service providers deploy these E-SBCs at customer premises to assign DiffServ values to packets, route those packets based on the quality they require, and provide the service providers with billing reports showing what amount of what kind of traffic each customer used. To get to Internet+, these same service providers need to enable the quality capabilities already in place (but usually not yet activated) on their IP routers, Stahl adds.
“Our products are very close to the TOQrouter in capabilities,” says Stahl, referring to E-SBCs. “So deployment could be very close to [enable service providers to] do these things.”
The TOQrouter is a new product category that only Ingate and Intertex (News - Alert) are talking about at this point. But the companies are trying to drive interest in and adoption of TOQrouters and the Internet+ model.
“We are the first to really point this out, this is how this should be used,” says Stahl, who adds that presentations on this topic are typically greeted with “a lot of nods and yes” responses from service providers.
“We are missionaries here,” he continues. “We just hope for a better world.”
Edited by Stefania Viscusi