Early adopters of NGN
The deployment of next-generation networks (NGN), using the Internet protocol
(IP) to support fixed, wireless and mobile voice, video, data, and broadcast
television services, is expected to provide new opportunities to increase
|ITU defines a next-generation network as a
packet-based network able to provide telecommunication services
including multiple broadband, which use quality of service (QoS)-enabled
transport technologies and in which service-related functions are
independent from underlying transport-related technologies.
Although ITU has defined NGN (see box), views still vary and operators and
vendors that have begun the process of development or migration have different
claims and definitions. In the Republic of Korea, Korea Telecom uses the name
BcN (Broadband convergence Network), and plans to have an entirely IP-based
network by 2012. Telekom Austria aims to do the same by 2009. In Canada, Telus
and Bell Canada have also announced plans to implement NGN, as well as Sprint
and Qwest of the United States, and Italy’s Telecom Italia. Japanese carrier,
NTT, is building an NGN and developing ubiquitous broadband services.
BT rolls out NGN
In the United Kingdom, BT has named its NGN the 21st Century Network, to
which it transferred the first customer lines in November 2006. The firm’s first
NGN customers live in the village of Wick, near Cardiff in Wales. By the end of
summer 2007, around 350 000 households in the area are expected to have joined
them. BT will then review the project before moving (from early 2008) to the
planned national upgrade of all remaining customers across the United Kingdom —
some 30 million lines supported from over 5500 telephone exchanges. There is a
forum where regular consultations take place with all other operators in the
country, so they can understand and influence BT’s plans.
"Big ideas usually start with simple thoughts," BT Wholesale Chief Executive
Officer Paul Reynolds, said at ITU TELECOM WORLD 2006, commenting on his firm’s
first NGN system. "BT’s 21st Century Network programme started life as a simple
thought — BT would transform its business, eliminate cost and complexity and
make life simpler and more flexible for our customers," Mr Reynolds explained.
BT says that the new network will deliver voice, data, broadband and
multimedia services, more quickly and cheaply than before. These include a new
generation of broadband with speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s — three times faster than
those currently available for most UK customers. The company’s move to an all-IP
network is estimated to cost around GBP 10 billion.
|Singapore’s Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure (Next
Gen NII) project, announced in February 2006, is intended to be the
country’s new "digital super-highway". The project comprises a wired
broadband network called Next Generation National Broadband Network (or
Next Gen NBN). It is planned to deliver speeds of 1 Gbit/s to all homes,
offices and schools. In addition, a Wireless Broadband Network (WBN) is
expected to offer "pervasive connectivity".
Broadband policy matters
NGN evolution may differ between developed and developing countries because
of access and affordability, since these remain pressing issues in the
developing world. NGN development is expected to flourish in countries with
robust broadband policies or extensive broadband penetration. In these
countries, mainly in the developed world, consumer demand for high-end,
innovative services is matched only by limitations on bandwidth.
Meanwhile, countries such as India, Pakistan and Malaysia have adopted
facilitative broadband policies, making these markets ideal candidates for NGN
What users want
How people pay for services is also influencing demand for NGN. Consumers
want simpler billing systems that cover everything they receive through the
network, and more personalized services of a higher quality. Demand is being
fuelled too by increasing communication across national borders for both
personal and business purposes, requiring high performance, widely available,
secure voice and data services.
Business users are already looking for flexible, virtual private network (VPN)
solutions. Future demand is likely to focus on innovative services and network
intelligence — security, storage and ways to support better integration of their
networking and information systems.
In future, it is expected that access networks will provide bandwidth of
up to 100 Mbit/s for individual users and transmission rates in the
gigabyte range for commercial customers. All of these can support
multimedia services, including broadband Internet, television and fixed
and mobile telephony. A sampling of bandwidth offerings at present
includes 24 Mbit/s in France, and 100 Mbit/s and rising in markets such
as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong (China) and Singapore (the
last having set 1 Gbit/s as a target).
Operators seek savings and efficiency
Among the factors driving operators to migrate to NGN is the growing
competition in old markets and newly liberalized ones. Falling revenues from
voice calls (and the multiplicity of networks that can deliver them using VoIP
technology) are prompting operators to convert to a fully IP-based architecture
(see The future of voice).
Traditional fixed-line carriers have generally been the leaders in broadband
Internet access using digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. But they are
faced with pressure from competitors such as mobile operators, new VoIP
providers, or wireless carriers, as well as from cable television networks that
can now support bi-directional IP-based services.
In Romania, for instance, competitive pressure from cable television
operators has led the incumbent to modernize its network and decide to move
towards NGN. In anticipation of joining the European Union on 1 January 2007,
Romania passed legislation in 2002 that includes a general authorization regime.
Its resulting regulatory framework promotes competition in infrastructure, with
cable television operators offering triple-play voice, Internet and television
services at the equivalent of EUR 9 per month.
Convergence and growing competition have made traditional operators invest in
common IP-based core infrastructure. These investments will eventually lead to
savings, through reducing the cost of running different networks while
increasing the products offered and thus (potentially) the number of
subscribers. Operational efficiencies can also be anticipated.
Many paths, one goal: to bridge the digital divide
Despite dramatic advances in telecommunications in many developing countries
— particularly via mobile telephony — major disparities remain in providing
Internet and broadband services. For example, most African countries have yet to
launch high-speed Internet services, although a few, such as Morocco, offer
broadband services of up to 20 Mbit/s and Sonatel in Senegal has rolled out a
triple-play service bundle offering voice, Internet access and television
programming. Most mobile operators have 2G (second-generation) networks. Some of
these are being transformed into 2.5G or GPRS (general packet radio service)
networks, but, for most people in the developing world, mobile broadband
services such as GPRS and 3G are still out of reach.
Service providers in developing countries are aware of the potential
cost-saving efficiency of NGN and in Brazil, India and Viet Nam, for example,
they have announced plans to migrate to core NGN. Projects for FTTx (fibre-to-the-home
or other building, or to the curb or node) are also being undertaken in such
countries as Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan and Viet Nam in anticipation of moving
to NGN, although they are mostly concentrated in highly populated, high-income
Africa is to host the 2010 Football World Cup. In preparation, it is
capitalizing on advances in 3G and digital migration to ensure that
every mobile phone in the country can receive mobile television, while
visitors from around the world will be able to use mobile multimedia
services to send images and video footage of the action at South African
The technological innovations that can be leveraged when migrating to NGN
such as Wi-Fi or broadband wireless access (BWA) technologies are already
changing the way universal access is being extended to rural and remote areas in
both developed and developing countries. In Mongolia, for example, rural areas
are being given spectrum free of charge for WiMAX and Wi-Fi in order to improve
India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority has recommendedmeasures to de-license
spectrum in the 5.1 GHz and 5.3 GHz bands and to earmark additional spectrum
bands that are not in high usage for deployment of BWA networks.
The Dominican Republic, which has already launched 3G services, plans to
introduce WiMAX soon. Its state-of-the-art operators use soft switches, with
other operators still offering services based on circuit-switched systems. The
road to NGN may take many paths. But developing countries also have certain
advantages in the migration process to NGN. Compared to more developed markets,
service providers in the developing world generally have fewer legacy products
in their core networks (for example, ISDN, IP, ATM, FR, and SHDS). This makes it
easier for them to "leapfrog" to all IP-based systems. Limited deployment and
penetration of copper networks, and the falling cost of fibre, can also
facilitate "greenfield" deployment of FTTx projects. In some developing
countries, the absence of complex access-based ex ante regulations also
means that there are fewer regulatory commitments to consider.
GSR Discussion Paper on NGN Overview, by Tracy Cohen, Councillor,
Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
GSR Discussion paper on NGN Enabling Environment, by Janet Hernández,
Senior Vice President, Telecommunications Management Group, Inc., United
Report of the Chairman, 7th ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR).
All of these documents are available at