Juniper Unveils 'Wireless Router'
The end-product was at one stage being billed as a “wireless router” by the two companies. Now it’s been given a longer, if more down-to-earth, moniker: GPRS (general packet radio service) gateway service node, or GGSN.
Calling it a wireless router was a ruse to confuse the competition, according to Christopher Komatas, product marketing manager for Juniper’s mobile division. “It’s a simplistic way of describing a GGSN,” he says. “There’s nothing wireless about it, other than its application in a GPRS network.”
Komatas says the GGSN will play a key role in helping service providers migrate to all-IP mobile networks. It connects data sent over the mobile core network to the Internet and corporate intranets. Initially, it can be used to help route email to users’ handsets, but in the long term it could also support audio and video streaming.
Carriers are looking to snazzy, new, handset data applications to give themselves a kick in the ARPU (average revenue generated per user). Carriers will make up declines in voice revenue from data downloads, so the theory goes, although this is yet to be proved – at least in Europe or the U.S. First-generation WAP (wireless application protocol) applications failed to set the world alight.
Juniper is working with Ericsson to proselytize mobile IP, through the snappily named Ericsson Juniper Mobile IP joint venture, supplying hardware when the telecom equipment vendor builds out so-called “2.5G” and “3G” networks for operators (the G stands for generation). The GPRS gateway supports GPRS (2.5G) as well as UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system, 3G) networks, according to Juniper.
Support for present and future versions of IP is a key aspect of the GGSN, according to Juniper’s Komatas. “All future mobile applications are being adapted to use IP,” he says.
GGSN supports Ipv4 and the much talked about IPv6. This version of the Internet protocol has been around for ages but has failed to gain widespread acceptance in fixed networks. However, its global addressing system is now seen as important for mobile networks – possibly supporting smoother roaming among international networks, better multimedia support, and the ability to use voice-over-IP technology for phone calls.
“Most carriers know they need to move to IPv6,” says Komatas. Support for the protocol is actually mandated under release five of standards coming out of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a group of the leading standards authorities in the wireless field. Networks built to those guidelines could be years away, as Juniper admits. Nevertheless, asserts Komatas, carriers will start experimenting with IPv6 next year.
However, carriers are likely to experiment with IPv6, GPRS, UMTS, and other new-fangled network technology in their major markets – that is, in big cities. There are still going to be large patches of older technology infrastructure in less profitable areas. It’s worth noting that companies such as AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are all launching intermediate network technologies in parts of the U.S. or on a market-by-market basis. So, just as users can still find themselves roaming on analog networks, it is likely that all the benefits of IPv6 networks will not be felt for a long time.
Enterprises are expected to be among the major customers for wireless data applications. Juniper reckons that it will help carriers snare the corporate clients through GGSN’s support of Layers 2 and 3 mobile VPNs and IPsec, along with the ability to separate enterprise traffic from consumer downloads. With the direct connection between mobile devices and corporate intranets over IP rendering some form of mobile security very necessary for corporate clients, wireless VPNs are becoming a hot topic in the industry.
On the hardware side, the GGSN is based around Juniper’s M series of routers; Komatas expects the M20 and M40e to be the most common platforms. It’s bundled with software that handles control signaling and packet forwarding.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) claims to have shipped several hundred GGSNs. Larry Lang, general manager and vice president of Cisco’s mobile wireless group says Juniper is "late to market but they’re here now... It's also confusing, because Ericsson already has a GGSN.”
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) claimed in 2000 to have created the first end-to-end GPRS network that supported IPv6.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung