Triple Play Is Hard
A “triple play” in baseball is one of the most challenging feats to accomplish. Similarly, the “Triple Play” of voice/video/data has been more hype than actual deployments, making it seem as though Triple Play is facing technical challenges or other hurdles. In my Top 10 VoIP Predictions for 2005 (tmcnet.com/69.1), I mention that Triple Play is going to take off, so what’s the hold up? Why haven’t I seen actual deployments and why am I not being offered a trial account for a product review? I WANT MY TRIPLE PLAY!
Well, New Hampshire-based Pannaway contacted me recently and offered me an industry “scoop” — the first Triple Play product review ever. I was very intrigued when I talked with Pannaway about their feature-set. Pannaway goes beyond the Triple Play hype by offering a Triple Play solution that works today and better still they have actual deployments not trials or “promises” of Triple Play. Just as an example, Cross Telephone, a carrier based out of Oklahoma is one such Pannaway customer and they currently have 9,000 subscribers with voice, data, HDTV, and Video On Demand (VOD) — all over IP. When they evaluated various Triple Play services they determined it would cost approximately $3,000/subscriber to overhaul their existing ATM infrastructure. Cross discovered Pannaway’s solution which leverages Cross’s fiber network allowing them to augment existing DLCs and initiate a controlled roll-out of an IP-based solution — rather than an ATM solution — for approximately $800/subscriber including premise equipment.
Lack of integration partnerships.
Need to embrace wireless solutions in-home.
Pannaway’s Triple Play Architecture
Pannaway’s architecture consists of the Broadband Access Manager (BAM), Broadband Aggregation Router, Broadband Access Switches (BAS-ADSL2+ & BAS-100BX), Call Control Manager (CCM), and Network Media Exchanges (NMX-SS7 & NMX-PRI), and the CPE devices, Personal Branch Gateway (PBG) & Residential Gateway NID (RGN). Pannaway essentially is an IP-based solution that rides on top of high-speed IP technology, such as fiber (Fiber-to-the-Home) or the latest DSL technology, namely the ADSL2+ standard. ADSL2+ not only has more bandwidth than other DSL flavors, ADSL2+ lines can reach much further from the Central Office (CO), delivering 20–24 Mbps in many real world deployments, thereby increasing the radius that carriers and service providers can offer Triple Play services using standard copper wiring loops already deployed to the majority of homes. In fact, according to some ADSL2+ reach versus rate charts I have, Pannaway was able to deliver five video streams over an ADSL2+ connection @~5,000 feet, four video streams @~7,500 feet, three video streams @~8,000 feet, two video streams @~12,500 feet and one video stream @~14,000 feet. In the Cross Telephone deployment, Pannaway claims they were able to deliver high-quality Triple Play digital services at distances exceeding 8,000ft — very impressive.
The Pannaway Service Convergence Network (SCN) architecture is engineered to economically replace the fundamental features that would be served by a DSLAM, DLC, and IP/Gigabit Ethernet gateway. In order to serve these primary functions, the SCN architecture was built around a suite of standards-based interfaces designed to provide high performance, redundancy, and scalability in the IP video world.
Data and video services require large amounts of bandwidth and high security, both of which Ethernet supplies in a highly scalable, cost-effective manner. Ethernet frames are the best solution for secure IP transport and have proven to be more suitable for Quality of Service (QoS) management than packet-over-SONET structures and more efficient than chopping IP packets into ATM cells. The Pannaway architecture relies upon IP packet level techniques to provide consistent QoS priority enforcement. Pannaway’s QoS approach incorporates policy-based management with standard Layer 2/3 QoS mechanisms including 802.1Q, IP Type of Service (TOS), and IP Differentiated Services (DiffServ) to deliver a framework, which allows various IP-based services (i.e., VoIP, VOD, IPTV) to be quickly and easily provisioned and deployed.
I should point out that traditional DSLAMs supporting IP Ethernet interfaces are built on ATM VCC and cell switching-based architectures. The inherent flaw of this commonly used solution is that it requires multiple PVCs per subscriber for the delivery and provisioning of services. ATM-based IP delivery architectures have also proven to be cost prohibitive and unsuitable for the delivery of bandwidth intensive multicast applications.
Pannaway’s end-to-end IP-based architecture makes switching decisions based on packet level information and is capable of performing packet and port-level inspection while port-to-port switching is routinely handled without the need for a Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS). Pannaway does not require multiple PVCs per subscriber port and provides QoS delivery based on packet queues. According to Pannaway, “Pannaway’s highly scalable packet-based architecture reduces service provisioning and configuration expenses through its ability to eliminate per subscriber/per service/per ISP virtual circuit provisioning. Pannaway’s IP design requires only one-time specification of service policies eliminating most of the service provisioning and configuration efforts inherent to ATM (i.e., ATM VC per subscriber, per hop).”
Triple Play Is Simple…
If you think about it, simply running voice and video over IP is not very complex to do, right? Just take Vendor A’s voice solution, Vendor B’s TV/video over IP solution, slap them together over a broadband pipe and bam you’ve got a Triple Play solution, right? Wrong! There is much more to it than that.
Triple Play The Right Way With Pannaway…
For one, it’s better to have an integrated solution that offers some nifty features. For instance, Pannaway’s solution can sense an incoming call at the CO, “digitally splice in” the CallerID information into the video stream and then the subscriber can see a CallerID popup on their television — very cool stuff (Figure 1). Pannaway has built voice and SIP into both flavors of its premise devices (RGN and PBG) and into the Remote Terminal (RT) BAS thereby making integrated features such as TV call popups a reality.
The PBG and RGN come with three orderable uplink interfaces, including ADSL2+, Ethernet 10/100TX, Ethernet 100 BX, with a flexible design for future interfaces so you don’t become outdated. They include a stateful inspection firewall, NAT, and VPN support. The PBG which is ADSL2+-based supports two Ethernet interfaces and the RGN, which is their fiber CPE device supports six. Both support DHCP and DNS server and client, RIP v1 and v2, IGMP. Most importantly they support QoS and VLAN support with 802.1p and 802.1q with up to eight priority queues. Prioritizing traffic means that if someone in the house starts downloading a massive file or uses a bandwidth-hungry application such as eMule, you won’t cause the streaming IP video to break-up or cause voice breaks in any current VoIP call. This is critical for any Triple Play solution.
One other critical feature when evaluating a Triple Play solution is whether or not it supports E911 or what happens in the event of a power or Internet outage. Most VoIP solutions today do not support E911 and even the ones that do lose phone service if the electricity or Internet goes offline or if the broadband pipe fails. Many carriers refuse to choose any solution that does not guarantee phone service in the event of power failure.
Well, Pannaway handles “Lifeline POTS” in a very interesting and unique way that separates it from many of its competitors. If the power goes off, Pannaway’s premise devices will automatically switch over to analog/POTS (since it’s DSL and not cable, DSL already has analog/POTS built-in). But here’s the real kicker — when it switches over to POTS/analog, your phone number stays the same! Unlike competing solutions, this is no kludge whereby you have one primary phone number using VoIP and a secondary backup phone number using POTS in the event something bad happens. It’s all seamless to the end-user — one phone number both for inbound and outbound calls even when the power fails — and all of the inherent features realized by SIP-based VoIP including distinctive ring tones and call forwarding stay intact.
From a technical standpoint, anytime electrical power is lost, a relay trips at the customer premise device (CPE), automatically connecting the phone line directly to Pannaway’s BAS in an RT or CO. The BAS then provides phone service to the subscriber. Figure 2 illustrates the scenario of a 911 call for help after a hurricane, earthquake, or some other disaster has cut all the power lines.
Pannaway came to TMC Labs and set up all their equipment. Within an hour that had all their gear and features set up (premise device, RT, CO, flat-screen LCD TVs, call features, on-screen call pop-ups, distinctive ring, Lifeline POTS, VoIP, etc.) Basically I had a full Triple Play solution on a single lab workbench. It was quite a sight to behold and to think that the equipment I was looking at could power thousands of subscribers with high-speed data, TV, VOD, CallerID popups on TV, and more.
Show Me The Money…
First, they demonstrated two video streams going to two separate LCD TV displays. Since we weren’t actually connected to a live video feed with multiple channels they used a few simulated live TV feeds via MPEG2 encoded files. Pannaway also supports MPEG4.
Next, they demonstrated a VoIP call and the quality was superb utilizing the G.711 codec. I asked about other low-bandwidth codecs and they said most carriers want G.711 since it offers “carrier-class sound quality.” Next, Pannaway demonstrated their TV screen-pop capability. We initiated another call and then saw CallerID information pop onto the bottom of the TV screen while we were still watching the simulated live TV video feed. Pannaway told me that with their architecture they can also pop up new e-mail notifications or the actual e-mail itself.
We also examined Pannaway’s highly intuitive Web-based administration tool CCM, which both the service provider and the subscriber utilize. The service provider obviously has access to more administrative interfaces whereas the subscriber has the ability to access call logs, calling features, voicemail, set call forwarding schedules, or perform self-provisioning of new services — all over the Web. The subscriber’s Web interface can be seen in Figure 3.
All of the tests and demos went very well. After demonstrating that their Triple Play solution wasn’t “smoke and mirrors” we discussed some of Pannaway’s other features, which are listed below.
- Every port is voice, data, and video ready.
- Web-based subscriber access to call features, voicemail, phonebook, etc., as well as self-provision new services.
- Scales from 16 to 252 ADSL2+ ports per cabinet.
- Zero-touch provisioning.
- Powerful service and management control for activating/de-activating voice, video, data on a per subscriber basis.
- Detailed device viewing and inventory management.
- Fault management with alarms (SNMP support).
- Line Blocking, Class 5 offload, Advanced Class-like features.
- Selective Call Blocking based upon calling number, time, or day.
IP DSLAM Features:
- All forwarding decisions are based on packet information at the OSI networking model layer 2 or higher.
- Every port is capable of deep packet inspection and queuing.
- Layer 3 multicast routing supports packet replication at wire rate.
- Layer 3 multicast routing tables support 1,024 groups.
- Stateful IGMP Snooping:
w Supports multiple multicast/IGMP clients at the premise regardless of the CPE.
w Multiple IGMP clients at a given customer premise can ‘channel surf’ without ill effect (IGMP Quick Leaves guarantee sub-second channel change times).
- Port to port switching is performed without the need for an external BRAS or router.
- Highly scaleable design supports multiple Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces at wire speeds.
- Distributed internal packet switching fabric delivers non-blocking performance in excess of 20 Gbps.
- Highly resilient architecture supports Layer 2/3 redundancy including Virtual Routing Redundancy Protocol (VRRP).
- Support for multiple access technologies including ADSL2+, Active FTTx (100Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
SIP-based call features (even in Lifeline mode)
- Caller ID
• Caller ID Blocking
• Call Waiting
• Caller ID on Call Waiting
• Call Forwarding
• Three-Way Calling
• Customer Originated Trace
• Toll/900/976 Blocking
• Distinctive Ringing
• Distinctive Call Waiting
• Selective Call Rejection
• Selective Call Forwarding
• Do Not Disturb
• Automatic Recall
• Speed Calling
Room For Improvement
One area where Pannaway can improve industry acceptance for its SCN is to develop integration partnerships with leading-edge vendors to solve specific problems faced by telcos. One example that is industry-wide is the in-house cable problem. The majority of the homes in rural America have coax cable, not CAT 5 which is a necessity for the delivery of Triple Play services. It also requires a tech to come and wire the home with CAT5 cabling for HDTV delivery to rooms with televisions. Although, there are new wireless technologies that claim wireless HDTV capabilities in the home. For instance, FOCUS Enhancements’ announced its UWB chip-set goals are to transmit wireless video ranging from 880 Megabits per second (Mbps) at 8 meters to 37 Mbps at around 40-plus meters. These capabilities would enable multiple HDTV transmissions, seamless interoperability with the MBOA UWB Standard, and home or small office personal-area networks larger than ten feet to wirelessly connect personal/digital video recorders, TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, printers, computers, etc.
The IP protocol has already established itself in the data world, followed soon after by the voice (VoIP) world, now IP is poised to take over the video world. Access networks that are built on IP will allow for seamless interoperability with the IP-based equipment that will make up the service creation platforms (i.e., digital video headends and softswitch servers) and dominate traffic flow in the core (i.e., routers and switches).
Pannaway claims that their Broadband Access Switch (BAS) is the industry’s only SIP-based DSLAM/DLC replacement that couples ATM to IP interworking with support for E-911 Lifeline POTS and advanced calling features. One key advantage of the Pannaway 100 percent IP-based solution is the reduced operational and equipment costs of a truly converged IP platform that deploys the triple play of voice, video, and data from the same platform. The Pannaway BAS is a stackable IP DSLAM with a low per-port “Triple Play” delivery cost as compared to competing solutions. For scalability multiple BAS’s can be interconnected via Gigabit Ethernet interfaces to support thousands of subscribers.
Delivering digitized voice, high-quality video and high-speed data services simultaneously over a single broadband connection, the BAS enables telcos to quickly offer new revenue-generating services including parental control features, HDTV, and VOD, in combination with call features that include on-screen call pop-ups and distinctive ring.
Unfortunately as with all good things, my experience with the Pannaway product came to an end. It was with a heavy heart that I learned I could only test it for one day. Normally, we keep products in the labs for 30 days but alas, this equipment was their customer/trade show demo, so we were only able to keep it for a day. It was very difficult to say goodbye to the Pannaway equipment. Pannaway’s Triple Play demo certainly left me desiring a Triple Play solution for my home in Connecticut (where SBC is the ILEC). All I have to say is “Hey SBC, remember me? I’ve been a Vonage customer for 2+ years, but before that I was your SBC customer for 10 years, but you overcharged me leading me to switch to Vonage.
Here’s your chance to earn my business again. Go deploy Triple Play. Then come and get me! I’ll be waiting. Call me.” Seriously though, Pannaway’s Triple Play solution, which is based on all industry standards (SIP, Diffserve…) is a superb choice for service provider and carriers looking to deploy Triple Play and I would not hesitate to recommend it.
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