Vendors look to replace voice switches

By Michael Martin, Network World |  Networking

SAN JOSE

-- DSL equipment maker AccessLan, Level 3 Communications and a variety of softswitch firms are targeting service providers with a partnership program introduced this week. The initiative relies on AccessLan's i-SLAM product, Level 3's global IP network and softswitch technology to replace time-division multiplexing circuit switches.

The i-SLAM is a DSL Access Multiplexer with quality-of-service (QoS) features that lets providers offer voice over DSL and other enhanced IP services. Softswitch technology is software that resides on servers and performs functions typically provided by Class 4 and Class 5 voice switches, such as call accounting and administration.

The partners' products will let service providers offer voice and data services over an end-to-end IP network, says Kris Sowolla, AccessLan's director of solutions marketing.

"What we're proposing is it's now possible to roll out converged services, and you'll be able to roll out new services that aren't available now," he says.

Those services might include streaming video, virtual call centers and self-provisioning capabilities.

AccessLan's central office based PL-2000 and stackable PL-1000 i-SLAMs will provide the last-mile connection for service providers. Level 3 will provide backbone services as well as long-distance voice and the softswitch vendors will provide calling features.

The partners can offer end-to-end QoS for all IP services, including voice, Sowolla says. The i-SLAM operates at Layer 2 and Layer 3 and can ensure QoS through type of service and Differentiated Services in the IP packet header.

Service providers installing the partners' offering would need to set up i-SLAMs in a central office or other building environment. They would also need to install softswitch components for setting up and tearing down voice calls.

Kumar Shah, AccessLan's vice president of marketing, says the partners' approach is ideal for service providers that want to begin serving Tier 2 cities but can't justify the expense of Class 4 and Class 5 switches.

Pat Hurley, an analyst with consultancy TeleChoice of Tulsa, Okla., says the Level 3/AccessLan service is suited for providers that have no investments in voice switches.

Hurley thinks the partners could offer good QoS on their voice calls. Level 3 has been providing long-distance voice over IP for some time, he says, adding voice over DSL is getting closer to toll quality.

"If you're looking at how AccessLan has [voice over DSL] deployed with QoS in the loop, I think it can be reliable," he says.

Hurley says one question that remains is whether the partners' service can scale to a large number of users.

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