We're living in pretty strange times. On the same day as NorthPoint
Communications was shut down and became, as the company's VP for Strategic
Development said in The New York Times, "a victim of the market's
refusal to let us live," I had a pleasant briefing with Chris Britton
of VDSL Systems. Chris and I
spoke a bit about VDSL Systems' entry into the U.S. market, and about the
general availability of the company's products -- the iVALO family of CPE,
as well as the SpeeDSLAM access multiplexer for central offices.
I have to admit it, my mind went racing back through the movie archives
to settle on the baptism scene from The Godfather, where Michael Corleone,
standing godfather to his sister's baby, is renouncing Satan "and all
his works" while at the same time, Moe Green and the other heads of
the five families are being wiped out on Michael's order. Maybe that's
pushing it. After all, nobody "ordered" the hit on NorthPoint
(regardless of the VP's comment in The Times). Still the contrast between
one company's first steps in the U.S. market and one company's demise was
not lost on me.
Based in Finland, VDSL Systems has recently put down roots in Denver,
CO. The company offers a pure IP-based VDSL (Very-High-Speed Digital
Subscriber Line) hardware solution that supports traditional POTS and
high-speed data technologies and integrates into IP, ATM, Ethernet, and
optical networks. VDSL Systems' hardware can achieve link speeds of 3ï¿½26
Mbps over ordinary copper lines.
According to Britton, "VDSL Systems is helping to take Digital
Subscriber Line (DSL) technology to the next stage of its evolution by
enabling telecommunications companies and service providers to deliver
even faster broadband access to their customers."
The company's products are designed to facilitate the fastest possible
speeds over traditional copper lines. VDSL Systems' SpeeDSLAM platform is
designed to allow network operators to flexibly provision for existing
data services as well as offer new applications requiring significantly
higher bandwidth. The SpeeDSLAM's dynamic bandwidth allocation (through
use of the company's SpeedVU management software) allows data, voice, and
video packets to be managed for each user according to their particular
grade of service. The platform's Layer 3 IP routing capabilities also
allows users to be supplied with secure virtual networks. The SpeeDSLAM
also contains firewall functionality that can filter IP packets based on
addresses, port numbers, and protocols.
On the CPE side, the iVALO Router is a broadband access device that
connects the user Ethernet network to an IP or ATM backbone over standard
twisted pair telephone cable. The modem-sized router has one VDSL port, a
port for WLAN, and a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port for LAN connections. The
iVALO Router is easily configured to provide flexible and adaptive bit
rates with the SpeedVU management system software.
VDSL Systems also offers a VDSL Modem Card designed to terminate
broadband services directly into the end-user's PC. It is installed in a
PCI card slot and connects directly to the motherboard of the PC. The
telephone line is connected to the RJ11 connector of the card. The host PC
in which the iVALO VDSL Modem Card is installed performs all IP session
control and security. Drivers for the most common PC operating systems,
including Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Linux, are supported.
I just returned from Phoenix, where I attended the Spring 2001Voice on the
Net conference. In the past I've always walked away with a sense of having
witnessed something new, something exciting, like last year, when SIP
seemed to explode onto the scene at VoN. This year however, no such
product buzz permeated the air. Sure, there was the occasional "hot
new thing," but there was nothing that dominated the atmosphere.
Now, I've always been a bit of a pragmatist. Some might look at the
lack of "super-duper, best-thing-since-sliced-bread,
high-tech-product" announcements as a negative thing. I see it as the
industry finally realizing that it has to deliver on all the hype of the
last few years. After all the talk about applications being the holy grail
of Internet telephony, it's time to start deploying these applications
into genuine, revenue producing networks. It's time to get all of this
wonderful stuff we've been hyping into the hands of customers. Paying
customers. And you know, maybe today's economy is a blessing in disguise.
In economic down times, people look to become more efficient, and
Internet telephony is all about being more efficient. People will continue
to make phone calls. Carriers will continue to build out their networks,
and they're not likely to invest in expensive, proprietary
circuit-switched equipment to do so. Internet telephony enables less
expensive, packet-based alternatives.
So perhaps the answer to everyone who asked me, "What was the hot
thing at this year's VoN?" is simply this: The industry is maturing.
Vendors are announcing customers. VoIP is slowly but steadily chipping
away at circuit-switched voice insofar as total minutes of use. It's real.
And increasingly, it's actually coming to a home or office near you. To
me, that's newsworthy. That's quality buzz.
NetNumber, a developer of carrier-grade commercial ENUM services,
recently teamed up with The SIP Center as a principal sponsor, and
announced the addition of its ENUM directory to the center's test bed
area. By encouraging the development of SIP- and ENUM-enabled products,
NetNumber hopes to facilitate the move from the public switched telephone
network (PSTN) to IP-based networks, such as the Internet.
The NetNumber ENUM Service provides cross-domain discovery of unknown
IP endpoints through use of a standard phone number. Essentially, this
enables practical, global deployment of IP-based services, while
simplifying the complex task of cross-domain provisioning and
configuration. A single phone number registered with the NetNumber ENUM
Service can reach multiple IP-enabled devices (IP-PBXs, IP phones, SIP
proxy servers, and the like).
"The global telephone numbering system is an established,
accepted, and efficient addressing method, one that should be maintained
throughout the ongoing migration from the telephone network to IP,"
said Glenn Marschel, CEO of NetNumber. "As service providers and
equipment manufacturers develop SIP-enabled products and applications, it
is important they also achieve ENUM compliancy to establish an automatic,
easy way to translate phone numbers into IP addresses."
WHAT IS ENUM? ENUM is an IETF protocol designed to facilitate the convergence of IP
networks and the PSTN. The protocol (IETF RFC 2916) essentially enables
the mapping of telephone numbers to Internet URLs. ENUM was developed, in
part, in response to questions on how to access services on the Internet
using the ubiquitous 12-key telephone keypad. Thus, ENUM enables users to
access Internet services from not only next-generation Internet-aware
telephones and appliances, but also from regular phones connected to data
networks through the use of gateways.
One of the goals of our industry has been to make VoIP as transparent
as possible, enabling phone calls to be as easy to make as regular PSTN
calls. ENUM goes a long way to ensuring that objective is met. It should
be noted that ENUM is protocol agnostic, as it is application agnostic. It
can work with either SIP or H.323.
HOW DOES IT WORK? A quick visit to www.enum.org, and
their FAQ page provides a basic definition of how ENUM works. (The Web
site is maintained and operated by NeuStar. NeuStar's mission is to serve
the industry as a trusted neutral third party. NeuStar serves as the North
American Numbering Plan Administrator, operating the telephone numbering
registry as a public numbering resource. NeuStar is also the Local Number
Portability Administrator for the U.S. and Canada, operating the routing
registry (the NPAC SMS) for North America.)
Once a telephone number is entered, it is translated into an Internet
address using the following steps:
The phone number is translated into a fully qualified E.164 number*
by adding the city (or area) and country code. Example: 555-1234
dialed in Washington, DC becomes +1-202-555-1234, where the
"1" represents the North American country code. The
"+" indicates that the number is a fully qualified E.164
All characters are removed except for the digits. Example:
The order of the digits is reversed. Example: 43215552021;
Dots are placed between each digit. Example: 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.0.2.1;
The designated ENUM domain (RFC 2916 specifies e164.arpa, however,
the final formal designation of the ENUM root has not been made. Here
the root will be represented by [enum.root]) is appended to the end.
ENUM then issues a DNS query on this domain. Once the authoritative
name server is found, ENUM retrieves relevant records and performs
according to the user's registered services for that number.
Pagoo has also recently moved to integrate NetNumber's ENUM Services,
enhancing the company's VoIP solutions for service providers. The
NetNumber solution allows Pagoo to completely bypass the PSTN, an idea
that attendees to the most recent Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO
are certainly familiar with. During his keynote speech at the February
conference, Pagoo Chairman and CEO John "Joc" Jacquay sounded a
wake-up call to the Internet telephony industry. He urged attendees to
"put the power of the Web behind the telephone" and develop
services for end users that are less expensive, more functional, and
easier to use than the PSTN.
Using ENUM capabilities enables Pagoo's IP to IP traffic to run
strictly over IP networks as opposed to over the PSTN, eliminating any
traditional network costs and expanding the reach of Pagoo's services.
For more information on the protocol, and some of the companies working
with ENUM, please visit the following sites:
"Everything is big in Texas" or so the saying goes.
Mass roll out of voice applications have yet to be served up by anyone,
and those of us in the space dedicate a lot of time and research into who
will be the one to start the Voice over Anything (VoA???) evo-revolution.
Cards are being laid and partnerships and business models hang in the
In true Texas fashion, however, General Bandwidth is putting its
technology where the numbers are -- right there with the big boys. With
experience serving large carriers, a heavily focused sales strategy based
on selling to RBOCs, a manufacturing strategy and process that is set for
the kind of "hockey stick" mass deployment that needs be met
when customers of this size and scale decide to roll out services, General
Bandwidth is putting their dollar and development down on RBOC roll out of
Voice over Broadband to the general public.
As far as General Bandwidth is concerned, the G6 is the star of Texas.
Positioned in the middle of the migration path to the Next Generation, the
G6 serves as a carrier-class gateway that will allow RBOCs to offer the
new local services to offer VoB and advanced Class 5 switching services
today, and totally replace the Class 5 in the years to come.
Let's face it, as an industry there are more protocols (and arguments
for each) than we can shake an IP phone at. Key concerns in developing
next-gen gateways are open architecture and the kind of standards based
interoperability that will give carriers the flexibility to deal with the
technologies and services that are bound to roll onto our networks. The G6
is protocol-agnostic, and built for flexibility and on established
standards not only to prove useful today, but to help move the VoB market
from proprietary systems to standards-based, interoperable networks that
can give local telephone carriers some competition in both service and
Building carrier-grade gateways takes a tremendous amount insight and
forethought not only in design and engineering, but also in testing and
logistics. The true worth of the G6 shines through when looking at the
amounts of testing that have gone into the development--utilizing testing
tools from the biggest names in testing, and where the existing testing
technologies fell short, they designed and implemented their own tools
(which are used at several different stages in the development process
both in house and at their component manufacturing locations). From fire
and smoke protection to shipping-damage prevention, the bases are covered.
As well they should be, for if a major Telco decides to adopt the G6 to
begin the first step in their next-gen swap, General Bandwidth must be
prepared to deliver en mass. They seem to have done their homework and are
poised to take the first big tests in the coming months.
So what are the ramifications of this type of gateway to the average
Joe? Chances are my parents will never understand exactly the role that
the G6 (or similar gateways) will play in our communication systems in the
future, but they will appreciate the lowered cost of local voice and the
differentiated services that are bound to come with the abilities of
converged communications platforms.
The philosophy behind designing a such a device as the G6 is simple:
Make a strong product, test the bejeezus out of it, build in backups not
only to your product but to your supply chain and manufacturing
facilities, and then see through all the details needed for smooth
implementation and scalability to round out the package. General Bandwidth
is not only preparing this generation for the next, but giving the next
generation a platform to grow on.
General Bandwidth, heck, even the name sounds big....