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ITU Mounts Convergence Rush

Some of the world's biggest carriers have turned to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for help in ensuring that tomorrow's converged telecom networks are standards-based. Their goal is to step up competition among their equipment suppliers so their investment dollars will go further.

The ITU has responded by setting up a unique Focus Group to deliver next-generation network (NGN) specifications by the middle of 2005 -- a very tight timetable by ITU standards (see ITU to Define NGN Standards).

The ITU's work promises to have a profound influence on the future of telecom on a couple of fronts.

First, the standards will embrace more than the concept of enabling carriers to offer all sorts of services over packet-based infrastructure. They will also embrace the use of a common network for providing fixed and mobile services -- a development that's likely to result in the whole structure of the service provider industry changing as wireline and wireless operators merge. This may be on the cards already in China (see China Moves May Hit Vendors).

Second, if the ITU's global standards stick, then equipment vendors will have much bigger markets to target and competition will become a lot tougher. This could favor vendors with low labor costs and giant home markets such as China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp.

Carriers are banking on this bringing down equipment prices significantly so they can afford to race ahead with widescale NGN investments.

Read the full story on Light Reading.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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