NGN's tough sell

06 Oct 2006

NGN has got to be the toughest sell in the telecom business right now.

Not because there's a problem with the concept of NGN, or IMS, or all-IP - call it what you will. Most carriers willingly sign up to the idea. Who wouldn't be better off by integrating TDM fixed and mobile cores into a single, seamless IP platform‾

They are just cool about the reality of it, not to mention the cost.

BT is still the only carrier in the world that has committed itself to completing swapping out its legacy systems for NGN.

That will cost 10 billion pounds over four years. In return, the UK carrier claims it will reap a billion pounds in cost savings and be able to roll out new services much more quickly.

We're about to see that put to the test very soon, with the cutover of the first customers to 21CN in Cardiff next month.

That BT is a fixed-line player only might be significant. IMS (IP for multimedia sub-systems) is posited as a platform for merging fixed and wireless operations, but if wireline operators are cool toward it, mobile carriers are positively icy.

IMS was originally conceived for the mobile sector, but even 3G cellcos today are basically running voice businesses with a marginal data segment. Their capital spending budgets are devoted to 3.5G and mobile TV networks. Converged voice-data is not a priority.

Uptick in interest

Where Tier 1 fixed-line carriers are spending, it's on optical. The NTT Group is in the middle of a $42 billion optical buildout, while Verizon is spending $18 billion to wire 18 million homes with fiber.

That said, perhaps now we are about to see an uptick in interest in NGN. France Telecom has called for expressions of interest for a next-gen network. BT has set up a consultancy group to sell its 21CN expertise, claiming one carrier customer already.

But the deeper problem is, for all the talk of double- and triple-play, convergence really isn't happening at a service level, so why trouble to make it happen at the network level.

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