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Editors' Notebook
May 2001


Life In The DSL Lane

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 3�26 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.

Greg Galitzine For Lack Of News, Quality Buzz


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.

ENUM Spawns Partnerships Across VoIP Industry

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."

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.

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 number;
  • All characters are removed except for the digits. Example: 12025551234;
  • The order of the digits is reversed. Example: 43215552021;
  • Dots are placed between each digit. Example:;
  • 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. Example:[enum.root].

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:

IETF -- www.ietf.org
ITU -- www.itu.int
ENUM.org -- www.enum.org
NetNumber -- www.netnumber.com
The SIP Center -- www.sipcenter.com
Pagoo -- www.pagoo.com
Telcordia -- www.telcordia.com
VeriSign -- www.verisign.com
[*Note: E.164 is the name of the international telephone numbering plan administered by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which specifies the format, structure, and administrative hierarchy of telephone numbers. E.164 numbers are appropriate for use in ENUM because they are part of a globally unique numbering system.]

Mike von Wahlde

Not Messing Around In Texas: The G6


"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 balance...

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 reliability.

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....

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