Telecom services converging via IP

Telecommunications carriers big and small have bet their future on IP networking and voice over IP services, speakers said at yesterday's Yankee Group Telecom Industry Forum 2004 in Washington.

The 1990s vision of computer-telephony convergence was "a false dawn," IBM Corp. consulting services partner Henry Stevens said. "The industry retrenched to IP" and now pursues what he called a converged ecosystem of all types of electronic devices with Web services, television, games, music and other entertainment media.

"Wireless and other carriers will use new technologies to create the illusion of seamless connectivity" end to end, Stevens said. Although "the bits of the jigsaw are not quite fitting together yet," future users will be able to switch among "the devices that are pertinent to them day by day."

As Yankee Group executive vice president Keith Mallinson put it: "The Nokia experience will replace the Microsoft experience."

MCI Inc. President and CEO Michael Capellas described a starkly devolved future for IT: a commodity rack of server blades and a storage farm supporting wireless end-user devices with content accessed via business logic and Extensible Markup Language over a global IP infrastructure.

"Computer science will become pure application logic independent of the network," Capellas said. "Everything becomes an addressable node. It is happening very, very fast."

Regulatory bodies will have to change, he said, because "when you put a packet on a network, you have no earthly idea whether it's data or [government-regulated] voice."

He predicted that within three years:

* Security threats will cause explosive growth in private IP networks

* Carrier-hosted grids will carry up to a third of all business traffic

* All connected devices will have sensor agents

* Wireless broadband devices will do speech and text translation so that, for instance, users could hear their e-mail read to them and reply by voice

* Operating systems will support peer-to-peer video.

Meanwhile, VOIP growth is cutting deeply into telecom carriers' revenue, and they must develop "cannibalization strategies for their existing services," said Lisa Donnan, vice president of NeuStar Inc. of Washington.

Carriers also face pressure to layer onto VOIP the traditional telephone taxes and regulatory structures as well as 411 subscriber directories and 911 emergency call routing.

Qwest Communications International Inc. executive vice president Barry Allen said Qwest is carrying 2 billion minutes of VOIP traffic a month on its 10-Gbps IP backbone.

AT&T Corp. vice president Eric Shepcaro said the carrier is building out thousands of wireless and Ethernet hotspots globally for "virtual convergence" of many types of services over a multiprotocol-label-switching core network. Users can provision their own bandwidth on demand. AT&T carries 1.5 petabytes of traffic daily, he said.

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