Worldwide, the communications industry is navigating the transition from aging communications platforms and services...
to new, digital services based fully on the Internet Protocol (IP). This means communications services such as voice and short message service are being provisioned over the Internet, rather than via the public-switched telephone network (PSTN).
The push to IP infrastructures is driven by the need to cut costs, deliver increasingly diverse types of digital content and manage growing bandwidth requirements. At the same time, companies are caught between requirements to support legacy networks and the need to invest in new technology. As a result, some must consider the pros and cons of replacing traditional phone systems to a system that works entirely over IP networks. Others, if they are service providers or offer consumer-based services, must assess how they can transition networks without impairing service to rural areas, 911 services, fire alarms and anything else that relies on the traditional phone network.
In fact, major providers are already starting the transition. In the United States, for example, ATT is seeking FCC regulatory changes to speed its transition to IP networks. It also announced its goal to move everything to IP and to stop maintaining the PSTN by 2020. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom plans to connect its various networks into one pan-European infrastructure within the decade.
Challenges and benefits go hand in hand
As communications companies initiate their transitions, there are basic elements to consider. First, they must demonstrate they can still provide a valuable customer experience as they move services to an IP network. Second, they must address the reliability of wireless services, particularly during power outages. Finally, they must face the reality that migration is inevitable, and understand that, with a well-thought-out roadmap, they can reduce operating expenses required to transition to an all-IP network.
The simple fact is this: It is challenging and expensive to maintain legacy technology that is long past its prime. Managing expiring or costly maintenance contracts and relying on end-of-life equipment that is probably housed in large, power-hungry facilities can also hinder growth. Communications companies often juggle these challenges while they operate newer, more modern architectures alongside their existing infrastructure. Migrating to newer networks addresses these issues, because digital equipment is not only less physically bulky, but all-IP networks are easier and more cost-effective to manage, maintain and troubleshoot.
In addition, modern networks offer customers newer, more reliable services previously unavailable on a legacy network. As a result, companies can improve their ability to meet consumer demand for fast, seamless, digital, multimedia communications that incorporate voice, data and video. In fact, some studies show that the potential lifetime value of consumers who purchase triple-play services can be 15 times that of customers on legacy networks.
There are other cost-related issues to keep in mind when migrating to IP networks. Whether it's a consumer or enterprise migration, decisions must be made at the local wired center to fully leverage product profitability, technical migration and reduce facility operation costs. For example, companies can sell or salvage older equipment and reduce the footprints of wireline facilities -- thanks to the compact nature of digital technology. Organizations can also salvage and sell copper fiber and consolidate IT support systems to yield even more savings.
Careful planning helps ensure success
Converting to IP networks is a monumental endeavor that will eventually become a reality for all communications companies, so it's best to plan now. Keeping customers informed is paramount and companies should tell customers about the benefits of migrating to IP, assure them that services will not be disrupted, and make sure the commitments align with their firm's network transformation goals.
About the author:
Paul Bultema is managing director, network strategy for Accenture's communications, media technology (CMT) group. John Morgan is the North American Offer Lead for Legacy to IP Network Transformation Services.
As IP networks increasing enable network-agnostic services, a more unified monitoring system is needed.