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Light Reading Idol

Column
Column
Column
3/25/2004

Do you feel like a telecom star? Want to sing your version of the future? Well, clear your throat and read on.

Telecom-world opinion seems to have fallen into pure polarity, like Simon Cowell’s view of every American Idol audition or performance. Everything is crap. Or everything is great. There’s hardly an in-between.

This comes up in speaking with folks about the telecom industry or reading comments they make on the Light Reading message boards (not that the message boards are the place to go for a clear-eyed view of reality).

I think a lot of folks are missing the point. Besides Mr. Cowell, humans aren’t very binary (that is, unless you think of people only in terms of being either alive or dead). Neither is business. We tend to congregate in vastly different shades of good to bad. Our performance and emotions run the gamut.

The proper take on the industry is neither “excrement” nor “excellent,” but somewhere in between. The communications industry should be considered for what it is: a complex system that’s constantly morphing into something new. Yes, we are migrating away from many legacy technologies and business models. But the fact is, the industry itself cannot die. It’s impossible. Communications are the backbone of society.

The big question, if you’re an optimist like myself (and Paula Abdul), is: How is the industry changing? Where are the new opportunities? And, if I hate the sound of someone’s voice, can I at least compliment their fashion sense?

To that end, we're in search of some new voices on this matter, specifically to contribute to an exciting new conference we're planning in New York City on April 13th. The conference is called The Telecom Recovery: Opportunities Amid the Chaos, and yours truly will play the Simon Cowell role as moderator.

And, while we’re not so insane that we’d let you vote one of our keynote speakers off the stage, you do have a special role to play in our version of... Light Reading Idol, if you will. Here's how you can join in: Drum up your ideas for the exciting new applications and services that will drive the telecom industry forward. Talk to your buddies in the trench warfare of telecom. What's the next big thing? Jot your ideas on a napkin. Send them to [email protected].

We'll hand out prizes for the best ideas: Free admission to our conference, as well as a subscription to Light Reading Insider. Admission to the conference will include a VIP wine tasting of 2000 Bordeaux. (Hey! If the bubble’s gone, at least the taste of it has been preserved!)

Finding opportunity in the chaos is the theme of our conference, which seeks to identify the leading applications, technologies, and companies in the telecom recovery.

(To those of you who say there is no recovery: That's nonsense. There's always recovery. Just look at John Daly.)

The conference will bring together leading technology and business experts in the telecom market and feature some exciting new research from the Light Reading empire.

We'll be discussing the results of the recent Heavy Reading report, Telecom Investment Opportunities; and the recent Light Reading Insider, “Telecom Recovery Leaders and Laggards” (see Mostly Fearless Forecasts and Who's Winning in the Rebound? ). Each takes a stab at defining this complex ecosystem. They describe how it is changing, rather than assessing the industry in life-and-death terms.

We’ve lined up some powerful speakers, including Hossein Eslambolchi, President of AT&T Global Network Services; AT&T’s Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer (CIO); Pradeep Sindhu, Vice Chairman, CTO and founder of Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR); and Steven D. Levy, Managing Director at Lehman Brothers.

Scott Clavenna, Heavy Reading Chief Analyst, will present the findings of “Telecom Investment Opportunities” and profile the emerging markets where he sees opportunities. And the editors of Light Reading’s Insider products will present the findings of “Telecom Recovery Leaders and Laggards.”

In a series of panels, we hope to develop an ongoing dialogue about the exciting new applications and business opportunities in the market.

So send your Top Three Recovery Opportunities to us at [email protected]. These can be new markets, new products, or ideas for new pieces of technology or telecom services that haven’t been invented. Your entry can be short – just a couple of lines – or feel free to expand, if you like.

The first five most interesting entries will get into our conference. If your idea is really good, we may even put you up on stage! Maybe.

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading


On April 13, analysts from both the Light Reading Insider financial research service, and Light Reading's Heavy Reading market research division will examine technology investment questions at a unique event hosted at the W Hotel New York Union Square in Manhattan.

The conference –
The Telecom Recovery: Opportunity Amid the Chaos – will examine the investment potential of a wide variety of technologies including triple play, 802.11 WiFi, FTTP, hosted SIP applications, SSL VPNs, IP video, MPLS-based convergence, and carrier-class Ethernet. It also will feature keynote speeches by Hossein Eslambolchi, President of AT&T Global Network Services, Pradeep Sindhu, CTO of Juniper Networks Inc., and Steven D. Levy, Managing Director of Lehman Brothers.

Register here.

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Scott Raynovich
Scott Raynovich
12/5/2012 | 2:10:13 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
I'd like to kick this thread off... we're going to be discussing the future of SIP and VOIP at the conference, was wondering if anybody could list the hot-button issues.

I hear the looming issue is interoperability (or lack thereof).
technonerd
technonerd
12/5/2012 | 2:10:13 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
I'd like to know what the basic business case is for VoIP. We know the technology or transport isn't any cheaper; in fact, transport bandwidth costs for voice round down to zero and the total ownership cost of the new boxes is a lot more expensive than using the current Class 5s and TDM to move voice. We also know that interoperability is a myth, and that Cisco plans to keep it that way.

VoIP doesn't deliver any benefits in terms of features. It's less reliable; faults are harder to find and fix. Availability is reduced. It's an inferior telephone service.

This begs the question of why anyone cares about VoIP, especially the carriers. Is it entirely regulatory arbitrage -- a means of changing basic voice service from a regulated telecom service to an unregulated information service, courtesy of a pro-monopoly FCC -- or is voice just the leading edge for a later planned transition to packet real-time two-way video?
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/5/2012 | 2:10:12 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Technonerd, it's the ability to roll out new services.

If you'd been around when the automobile was invented, I think you might have argued that you couldn't see the advantage compared to a horse. After all, automobiles cost a lot to buy, run on expensive gasolene rather than free grass, break down and don't mend themselves, can't give birth to replacement cars, and in any case, what's there to see beyond where I can get to on my horse?
technonerd
technonerd
12/5/2012 | 2:10:10 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Technonerd, it's the ability to roll out new services.

That's the mantra, anyway. A couple years ago it was transport efficiency. I'd be less skeptical if (other than video conferencing) I knew of any new services that anyone is willing to pay for.
technoboy
technoboy
12/5/2012 | 2:10:09 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Technonerd,

I'd like to know what the basic business case is for VoIP. We know the technology or transport isn't any cheaper; in fact, transport bandwidth costs for voice round down to zero and the total ownership cost of the new boxes is a lot more expensive than using the current Class 5s and TDM to move voice. We also know that interoperability is a myth, and that Cisco plans to keep it that way.

If you are talking about the enterprise space than Cisco may have some control (it has been changing lately) but in the carrier voice market I would not make the same statement. They partner with carriers and sell a fair number of IP phones but the softswitch components are usually provided by Nortel or Siemens with Broadsoft or Sylantro usually in the mix.

Im not sure where you are getting your numbers to back up claims that new equipment is more expensive.

You also wrote: VoIP doesn't deliver any benefits in terms of features. It's less reliable; faults are harder to find and fix. Availability is reduced. It's an inferior telephone service.

This is clearly your opinion and your entitled to it. I know many people that would disagree. Emulating the class 5 switch with a softswitch architecture and an IP network is not any more complex, voice quality is absolutely fine and I stated some of the new features that can be leveraged with a softswitch but you just dont like them so what else can we do. We will have to agree to disagree.

Finally, Here is another application for the softswitch architecture. Post 9/11 many large enterprise customers began exploring business continuity strategies should another terrorist strike happen. Some companies have implemented a dual softswitch strategy or a softswitch backup to a TDM infrastructure. If a building is hit and the PBX or associated class 5 switch is knocked out. Employees are either re-directed to a backup site or can work from home and connect to the softswitch through a broadband connection. Some of this was done right after 9/11 where companies around the WTC erected broadband LOS to get across the river or to other locations in the city. IP phones were distributed and those users were connected back to the network.
technonerd
technonerd
12/5/2012 | 2:10:07 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Im not sure where you are getting your numbers to back up claims that new equipment is more expensive.
I'm going to make a concerted effort to not get mad at you. Call it the kinder, gentler technonerd. I wrote what I did because the Class 5s are largely paid for. Now it's mostly a matter of ongoing maintenance. The softswitches will need maintenance, too, but they'll also need new boxes. Plus there will be major-league training costs.


This is clearly your opinion and your entitled to it. I know many people that would disagree. Emulating the class 5 switch with a softswitch architecture and an IP network is not any more complex, voice quality is absolutely fine and I stated some of the new features that can be leveraged with a softswitch but you just dont like them so what else can we do. We will have to agree to disagree.
Phone people who I trust, who have looked at this and who know more than I do, tell me that fault detection and repair is far easier in TDM. As for the features you cited, yeah we'll need to disagree. If I get the energy to do it, I will post a query about the features you cited. But then I might not because it would be really long and would take me quite a bit of time.


Post 9/11 many large enterprise customers began exploring business continuity strategies should another terrorist strike happen. Some companies have implemented a dual softswitch strategy or a softswitch backup to a TDM infrastructure.

Some of this was done right after 9/11 where companies around the WTC erected broadband LOS to get across the river or to other locations in the city. IP phones were distributed and those users were connected back to the network.

Funny about the post-9/11 thing about getting across the river. A company called Terabeam (infrared laser transport) claimed that they did this for clients after 9/11. I am very doubtful, because the Hudson River is wider than Terabeam's signals can travel according to my understanding of it.

But Merrill Lynch was a big venture investor in Terabeam and its major component supplier, and Merrill had a building on the Hudson. And we have to figure that Merrill Lynch would have been one of the investment bankers if they'd been able to shove this one out toward the dumb money. Hence that claim about 9/11.

Also after 9/11, the CEO of Verizon gave a speech calling for the end of UNE-P and equating CLEC personnel with terrorists. It didn't take long for 9/11 to be used for cynical purposes, not to mention the Iraq War. But I digress. My point is that carriers and vendors will tell any lie they can get away with. No one should ever forget that.
technonerd
technonerd
12/5/2012 | 2:10:05 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Well technonerd can you at least state that the fact that you spoke to a few phone people is not and indicator of the entire market response.
Well yes of course that's true. But I'm also going to say that before I retired I had a network of smart, honest, unbiased people within the vendors and the carriers who I would talk to about these things. They were all interested in the softswitch concept but said it was nowhere close to fruition and wouldn't be for quite a while.

I'm not wedded to Lucent's big iron or Nortel's DMS. I truly couldn't care less. I come at this from the point of view of what's real and what works. Here and now. I have no patience with Silicon Valley's culture that essentially tells people to make claims three to five years ahead of reality. This isn't intended to personally insult you in any way, but my skepticism is derived from the certain knowledge that most vendors and carriers lie as with less effort than it takes me to brush my teeth.


I spoke about presence based communications and you stated you can do the same thing with the PSTN (I paraphrased). Thats fine if you like to conduct business differently than others but again that is your opinion and not everyone agrees with you. Im not trying to argue with you about this. Im just stating my point of view and I know not everyone agrees with me.
I guess my main set of questions were going to be about the specifics of using this system when you're on the road. From what I've been able to deduce, a lot of Wi-Fi access points aren't compatible and people find themselves futzing with all kinds of arcana on their computers.

In a hotel room, don't you just wind up doing dial-up anyway given the realities of business travel? I know all about the ethernet ports in some places, but compatibility and security issues always made it impossible for me to use that stuff. Similarly, with cable modems other than logging in from your own home I'm not sure how it would matter -- and if I'm not mistaken your example was about business travel.

All of this adds up to my skepticism that the system you described was available enough, easily enough, to be of utility to anyone other than an engineer who's way into the technology. See, for me the stuff is just a tool. I'm not dazzled.
technoboy
technoboy
12/5/2012 | 2:10:05 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Technonerd wrote:

Funny about the post-9/11 thing about getting across the river. A company called Terabeam (infrared laser transport) claimed that they did this for clients after 9/11. I am very doubtful, because the Hudson River is wider than Terabeam's signals can travel according to my understanding of it.

Technonerd I live in close proximity to NYC and I know the people who worked with several companies to make this happen. Terabeam was not involved in the project This was digital microwave which can easily span the distance between Jersey city and Manhattan.



Technonerd wrote: I'm going to make a concerted effort to not get mad at you. Call it the kinder, gentler technonerd. I wrote what I did because the Class 5s are largely paid for. Now it's mostly a matter of ongoing maintenance. The softswitches will need maintenance, too, but they'll also need new boxes. Plus there will be major-league training costs.

Thanks Technonerd I really appreciate you not getting mad at me for asking a question. I was seriously asking what the costs are to maintain these switches. I dont think it is accurate to say all the carriers pay for is maintenance on the existing switches. The other point is that it is not as if the carriers are just starting to invest in the infrastructure now. It has been going on for some time. I will provide for you next week a benchmark on maintenance for a softswitch versus a Class 5 switch for a comparison.


Technonerd wrote: Phone people who I trust, who have looked at this and who know more than I do, tell me that fault detection and repair is far easier in TDM. As for the features you cited, yeah we'll need to disagree. If I get the energy to do it, I will post a query about the features you cited. But then I might not because it would be really long and would take me quite a bit of time.

Well technonerd can you at least state that the fact that you spoke to a few phone people is not and indicator of the entire market response. Of course there are those will say one is better than the other. I just have to say its not harder to troubleshoot but it does require a different skill set. I will save you the time and energy of searching. I spoke about presence based communications and you stated you can do the same thing with the PSTN ( I paraphrased). Thats fine if you like to conduct business differently than others but again that is your opinion and not everyone agrees with you. Im not trying to argue with you about this. Im just stating my point of view and I know not everyone agrees with me.
technoboy
technoboy
12/5/2012 | 2:10:04 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Technonerd:

I agree with you on most of what you posted below. Mainly, the softswitch architecture is still a work in progress but is far enough along to begin serious deployments. Three years ago it was not ready since I have to work with sales reps and marketing reps almost everyday I can understand your frustration with the spin. Unfortunately its a culture that has evolved over time and will probably not get any better in my lifetime. I accept it as part of the business.

Another example would be the wireless network hot spots. Two years ago it was absolutely horrible now its a lot better but needs alot of improvement. The main difference I have seen in the last 2 to 3 years is that there seems to be a lot more attention on what end customers are asking for in some of the technology that vendors are trying to sell them ( Its funny what happens when carriers stop buying anything). Also, I have seen a lot more development around the SIP standard than ever occurred with things like H.323. I am both hopeful and pragmatic


technonerd
technonerd
12/5/2012 | 2:10:03 AM
re: Light Reading Idol
Unfortunately its a culture that has evolved over time and will probably not get any better in my lifetime. I accept it as part of the business.
I recall reading an article about an interview with Gorbachev in which he explained that Reagan's Star Wars program wasn't why the Soviet Union collapsed. It was Afghanistan and then Chernobyl, he said. These forced everyone to realize, whether they wanted to or not, that Soviet life was based on lies from beginning to end.

I would have thought the bubble would have forced a similar re-examination in the technology and financial worlds. Apparently not. Believe it or not, I actually feel for you, technoboy. After all, you've got to find a way to feed your family.
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