Networks & Service Platforms
In the Netherlands there are many providers of telecom and internet services, who deliver their services via so-called Access networks. Access networks are telecommunication networks which provide connectivity and access to services like telephony, radio, television and internet. Traditionally, copper telephone lines were used for telephony, connecting telephone exchanges to houses and offices. Next to this, in The Netherlands a domestic household generally has cable television connectivity. This cable network, consisting of a combination of coaxial cables and fiberglass technology, provides connectivity to a cable television set top box offering television, radio and internet services.
Wireless networks have traditionally been used for the reception of radio and television and for business applications such as radiotelephone services for police forces and fire departments. These radio networks have an important attribute in common as services can be delivered location independent. Nowadays wireless networks are not limited to radio, television and specific business applications but are part of everyday life. The controlling of devices, cars but also internet connectivity are increasingly depending on wireless networks.
Digitalization en traffic growth
With the rise of digital technology in the 90s, more and more digital services became available with high quality. Examples include digital (HD) television, IPTV, and streaming audio and video over broadband internet. With the rise of cloud services in the office and home environment, data usage on Access networks has grown steadily.
The figure below shows an overview of this growth in internet traffic on fixed networks.
Consumers and companies have grown to rely on continuous availability of broadband services. However, neither traditional copper networks nor wireless networks were originally designed and dimensioned for massive continuous broadband usage. To meet the increasing demand for required capacity expansion a technical network evolution is going on in both fixed and wireless networks.
In this evolution, digital techniques are used to increase capacity and to benefit from combining glass and copper technology and from redesigning / segmenting networks. Other initiatives exist to replace the copper networks between service providers and customers with a fiberglass connection, which increases capacity to a multifold of the current maximum usage of both business and residential customers. The access network is no longer the limiting factor.
For radio / mobile networks, the capacity is not only increased through the use of digital technology, but also by providing more radio capacity (frequency spectrum) to service providers. An example is the introduction of digital LTE networks and the associated LTE frequency spectrum usage auction by the Dutch government. The figure below shows the increase of internet traffic on mobile networks.
The market for Fixed Infrastructure is on one hand characterized by consolidation of infrastructure and on the other hand by the use of new technologies offering new opportunities. This implies consolidation of the current copper network infrastructure, but also expanding the capabilities of this network with new technologies such as the various DSL/HFC versions and developments in COAX and FttH.
Broadband is certainly a hot issue. The bandwidth increase in access, backhaul and core networks is clearly reflected by the total traffic that is handled by the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX). In the Netherlands this strong growth in data traffic is better explained by the increased consumption per connection / user, rather than increase in broadband penetration. In addition, the rollout of Mobile Broadband also contributes to increased broadband demand in the fixed networks.
Fixed networks provide reliable and broadband connections in the business market to mobile sites and to other wholesale buyers. In the business market, there are developments in the field of Ethernet VPN, added services on VPN (Voice, PIN, Alarm) and Hosted Voice.
Consumers demand more bandwidth and real-time services. As a result, the rollout of fiber has accelerated and technologies like Docsis3.0 and VDSL are further exhausting the possibilities of the existing infrastructures of COAX and copper.
The emergence of „over-the-top“ providers like Google, Skype and Facebook is the main threat for telecom operators and service providers. These OTT providers cannibalize the services of service providers and threaten operators to be reduced as bit-pipe providers to their customers, who in turn use the public internet for many applications at their fingertips from providers whose business models are based on other revenue streams.
Mobile broadband services have been offered by mobile operators for years, for example through 3G/HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) networks. Since 2011, a number of Dutch operators rolled out a limited 4G/LTE (Long Time Evolution) network. Following the successful auction of mobile frequencies in December 2012, operators are currently heavily investing in the rollout of the 4G mobile network.
With the arrival of LTE the service Mobile Broadband becomes similar to broadband Internet services offered by VDSL and cable. A big advantage of mobile broadband is that a fixed connection to a network is not required and therefore broadband internet access is available everywhere.
It is also expected that usage of mobile broadband services will increase due to the upcoming availability of new mobile data equipment. For example consider the increased functionality on smartphones and tablets and the LTE support of the latest devices. Laptops will, in addition to WiFi, contain an adapter for mobile broadband networks. Also, wireless video surveillance or remote operation of equipment will be used more and more by the faster and more reliable mobile connections. Cooperation of operators, ISPs and suppliers such as in Mobile Broadband Intitiative are accelerating this development.
The question remains to what extent the users of these devices remain loyal to their existing operator. More than with traditional mobile phones, the user experience is formed by the smartphone itself, no longer by the operator’s network. Because both consumers and business users are particularly interested in LTE due to the high data rates, this is an important consideration for them in how the network falls back on National LTE Roaming, 3G or Wi-Fi coverage for example.
Applications such as mobile email, internet and working from home will increase even further in popularity with both business users and consumers. The mobile evolution towards IP-based networks and applications here will also provide new converged services such as complete mobile office environments for computer and telephony. For consumers triple play offers will become available in mobile versions, in addition to the existing versions via fixed networks.
Prodapt Consulting is active in many areas that have to do with VoIP, Hosted Voice (IP Centrex) and IP interconnect. There are different standards for VoIP, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and provides in a VoIP environment for the initialization and ending of phone calls. ENUM is short for Electronic Number Mapping System and is originally developed to link numbers of end users to various IP services what proves to be a very useful protocol for linking interconnecting VoIP networks of carriers.
At this time SIP and ENUM are both dominant and de facto standards for VoIP. There are good reasons for this:
- SIP is future proof: in addition to voice, it can also be used as a protocol for video conferencing and instant messaging
- SIP en ENUM connect to existing Internet protocols
- ENUM is the standard adopted by 3GPP standardization to facilitate the translation from a phone number into a routable IP address
- There is a wide range of peripherals available for SIP
- Both major supplier / vendors of telecom equipment and the open source community provide different ENUM and SIP implementations
Prodapt Consulting has extensive experience in the implementation of SIP and ENUM projects:
- Consumer and business SIP implementations
- Peering based on ENUM and SIP based platforms
- Number portability and ENUM
- Connection to network management and BSS/OSS systems
For a Proof-of-Concept of the peering platform for the members of the Joint Cable Campaign (JCC) – such as UPC, Ziggo, ZeelandNet and CAIW – Prodapt Consulting has received a Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award.
Hosted Voice, also known as IP Centrex is a business telephone service where the customer does not have a telephone exchange (PBX), but uses an exchange of a Telecom operator as a cloud service.
For Hosted Voice Services a user group with special privileges is defined in the exchange. Thus, users can call each other with abbreviated numbers and group numbers can be defined. Both fixed and mobile solutions are possible.
Some examples of Hosted Voice services are:
- Group number (Hunt Group)
- Receptionist circuit
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Call Center
Hosted Voice gives the customer control over his connections. The advantage for the customer is that no PBX needs to be purchased or maintained. The downside is that for internal telephony the company is also dependent on the service provider.
A practical service is based on a telephone link to the Microsoft Outlook application. It is then possible to call from the Outlook address book or from a received email. Also, a telephone call can be combined with an online presentation. Conference calls can start from the agenda and everyone is called on time. Combined with working from home, Hosted Voice provides added value.
Hosted Voice and Fixed-Mobile integration
A special form of Hosted Voice is the combination with mobile telephony. This allows people everywhere to use the same services as in the office. In that case it does not matter anymore when the employee makes or receives calls through his fixed phone or from their mobile phone.
Within various telecom operators, Prodapt Consulting has contributed to the introduction of Hosted Voice services. In addition functional requirements and detailed designs for Hosted Voice service delivery and provisioning systems (OSS) are prepared. Through fully automated workflows the Application servers, the underlying IMS infrastructure and SBC (Session Border Controllers) are configured. Prodapt Consulting has thereby successfully deployed both its IT-OSS as its network provisioning expertise.
IPTV and Video on Demand
IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television, which is watching television via a broadband (Internet) connection. This TV technology was developed near the end of the 20th century and is used in the Netherlands, amongst others by Tele2 for Tele2 TV and by KPN for offering KPN Interactive TV.
IPTV is often used to offer public television programs. However, a typical feature of IPTV is the user interaction. Where traditional one-way digital television services are offered to a large audience, IPTV enables new services that are user specific. Examples of user specific services include Video on Demand, Tele Voting, Online Gaming and Home Shopping. Access to these services is possible through so-called „Red Button Functions“. Through this type of functions the viewer can select a program, movie or extra service using the remote control. He or she can also perform functions like order products or vote on a favorite artist.
With the current platforms, it is possible to offer special interest channels for specific target groups. It is also possible for a user to compose his own program offering and to get advice about upcoming programs based on viewing history and personal preferences. Services already available on the Internet like sharing videos and photos become available on TV; also video calling or remote video monitoring of small babies will become possible.
IPTV is suitable for network operators with a broadband IP network such as xDSL or fiberglass, but also mobile data operators are offering IPTV services. IPTV provides digital television over IP, where often MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or VC-1 video encoding is used for passing through TV programs. IPTV use by Cable operators is limited because in Cable generally other technologies such as DVB-C are in use.
To offer IPTV a platform is needed that digitizes the programs (video content) and distributes it to end users. Users can select via a Set Top Box, remote control or video screen to view the program.
Prodapt Consulting’s experience with converged services
By using digital and IP technologies in the different access networks, the difference between fixed and mobile network connections is getting smaller and a need to provide services on all types of networks (convergence) emerges.
This desire to provide combination (converged) services requires new solutions for delivery to deliver over different access networks. The available network is therefore no longer the determining factor for the customer experience, but rather the services platforms and supporting customer processes and BSS / OSS systems.
In the converged services area Prodapt Consulting has knowledge and experience in service implementations across all types of networks. In addition Prodapt Consulting is involved in the design and implementation of the underlying service platforms and BSS/OSS systems. This combination makes Prodapt Consulting a partner that can contribute to network independent End 2 End solutions for converged services.