Moving beyond the core network

09 Jan 2007

Aepona marketing VP Michael Crossey tells why operators are turning to the service network to develop innovative services without detailed knowledge of underlying network protocols and open up the network to a broad community of third-party developers

Telecom Asia: What is the service network and how important is it‾

Crossey: The service network is a horizontal layer above the operator core network, allowing new telecom services and applications to be rapidly developed, tested and deployed independently from the underlying network infrastructure. This means that services can work across multiple network platforms from different vendors, across multiple technologies and network protocols such as SIP and SS7, across multiple devices, terminals and access technologies, and across multiple domains such as fixed, mobile, circuit-switched and packet-switched.

Within the service network, standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs) are available allowing the development of innovative new services without detailed knowledge of underlying network protocols, especially vendor-specific protocol implementations. This opens up the network to a broad community of third-party application developers, as well as providing common methods for service development within the telecom operators themselves.

The service network has the potential to transform the telecom operators' business. Given the high level of consolidation ongoing within the telecoms industry, boundaries between affiliate networks (for example, between different operating entities within a global or regional operator that have chosen different network technologies and platforms from different vendors) present a significant challenge to an operator that wishes to develop and market a common set of services across its full subscriber base. The Service Network provides a single domain and a common framework for the development of these services, allowing the operator to benefit from economies of scale, reduced development cost, faster time to market, and stronger branding via an enhanced, pan-regional, common user experience.

The service network also gives operators the opportunity to fully realize the value of their network assets through secure, controlled exposure of network capabilities (such as call control, location, messaging, presence etc.) to external developers as well as business customers. In this way, service innovation is increased (by embracing the same model that has contributed to the success of the Internet) and new revenue opportunities, other than voice services, are created.

Does it apply just to mobile operators‾

Absolutely not. The service network can be realized in fixed or mobile networks and is actually an enabler for fixed-mobile convergence. Furthermore, it can be deployed in current-generation circuit-switched networks, next-generation IP/IMS networks, or between both types of networks, in which case the service network provides an effective bridge between today's world and tomorrow's.

Is it a path to IMS -- or a means of getting around the need to deploy IMS‾

It is neither and it is both. The service network sits horizontally above the core network, so it can be thought of as independent from the underlying network infrastructure, whether that is IMS or otherwise.

However, it gives operators the opportunity to evolve toward IMS at their own pace, without throwing away the significant investments they have made in current-generation IN services, as these can be kept in place and accessed from IMS as it is rolled out. Our view at Aepona is that many IMS deployments will be service-driven rather than infrastructure-driven, and the service network allows operators to deploy next-generation IMS-type services without upgrading their entire infrastructure to IMS at once.

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