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Optical/IP

Convergence Ramps Up

Differences in the core networks of fixed and mobile technologies will all but disappear by 2012, according to the latest report from Light Reading's research division, Heavy Reading. The merging of wireline and wireless networks and services is one of the most hyped developments in telecom. To date, a glut of service providers and vendors has jumped on the convergence bandwagon, aiming to promote the benefits of an integrated network (see BT Talks Up FMCA and Nokia, TI Trial Convergence).

But is talk of convergence just the latest round of marketing hogwash, or a serious reality?

Heavy Reading's "Fixed-Mobile Convergence Reality Check" finds that service providers are taking a fairly optimistic view of Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC). "By and large they believe it is going to bring fundamental changes to the structure of telecommunications markets,” notes report author, Graham Finnie. “Results from our online survey indicate a strong belief that FMC will eliminate the barriers that now exist between wireline and wireless networks over the next decade.”

Finnie touts the 2006-2007 timeframe as the most important period in FMC technology and service development. “This means that the time to prepare for FMC is already at hand.”

On that note, the nascent IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) market is expected to play a key role in encouraging core network convergence. Originally defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 5 specifications for 3G networks, IMS provides a SIP-based control layer with open interfaces to the transport layer and the services layer above. It gives carriers control over services on a per-session basis, and is expected to provide unprecedented flexibility to the way mobile data is delivered to the subscriber (see Vendors Prep for IMS Fight and IP Multimedia Subsystems: Easy Does It).

“In the longer-term vision for convergence, one technology dominates: the IP Multimedia System,” says Finnie. “For incumbent telcos, this should enable the transition to a single core network able to handle the needs of both fixed and mobile subsidiaries, which are largely separately handled today.”

This convergence of infrastructure leads Finnie to conclude that, in the core network at least, “the boundaries between fixed and mobile technologies will be largely dissolved by 2010-2012.”

The 59-page Heavy Reading report, "Fixed-Mobile Convergence Reality Check," costs $3,495. For more information, please click on this link.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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