Telecom industry focuses on video, fat pipes

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, IP telephony, telecom

Wired and wireless carriers will meet up with network equipment vendors this week in Las Vegas to figure out how to meet the changing and fast-growing demands of enterprises and consumers.

The NXTcomm trade show, the latest incarnation of an annual event that used to be called Supercomm, will bring together the heads of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel, plus other luminaries, and they will have plenty to talk about. Demand for bandwidth is rising, new wireless technologies are emerging, huge swaths of radio spectrum in the U.S. have recently been allocated to wireless data and carriers are redesigning their networks to deliver packages of IP (Internet Protocol) wired and mobile services.

Video, for consumers and increasingly for business, is a major driver in the growth of data traffic and is likely to be a big topic at the conference. Research company IDC predicted last December that video distribution would be the biggest driver for service providers to consolidate their networks around IP this year.

Tandberg will push video for enterprises with two types of products on display at the show. On employees' desks, it will make the video phone a reality with its E20 Video IP Phone. It's designed from the ground up for visual calls, with a 10.6-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen built in right over the phone keypad, and a 5 megapixel video camera on top. The screen will have 448 lines of resolution, near DVD quality of 480 lines, and will feature CD-quality audio, according to Tandberg. With a button on the phone, employees can switch from video to sharing an application running on their PCs. Picture-in-picture application-sharing will come later, said Peter Nutley, director of global product marketing.

The E20 will come with a handset and also work as a speakerphone. There is an RJ-11 jack for wired headsets and Bluetooth is built in, though it won't be activated until a software upgrade due in the first half of 2009, Nutley said. Priced at US$1,490, the E20 can take the place of an existing desk phone and can be hooked up to either a Tandberg infrastructure or an existing IP PBX (private branch exchange). It is designed to work with most other IP phones and videoconferencing systems using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and other standards. The E20 is set to ship in the first quarter of 2009.

Most video phones have been designed for consumers, and enterprise employees typically have PCs they could use for IP calls with video, said IDC analyst Nora Freedman. But a dedicated device such as the E20 is likely to offer better image and voice quality and may be easier to start up and use, she said.

"I don't want to have to call my IT guy so I can dial the phone," Freedman said.

Devices such as the E20 may appeal more to a niche market, said Robert Arnold of Current Analysis, though having the video calling capability up and available all the time would be an advantage over PC-based options.

Also at NXTcomm, Tandberg will show off the beginning of its next generation of telepresence systems, featuring 1080p high-definition video. It will demonstrate the Codec C90, a telepresence engine using Tandberg's latest codec. That engine will power the T1, a telepresence system with one 65-inch 1080p screen and a 1080p camera. The arrangement of the camera and display on the T1 can make it seem that participants are looking into each others' eyes, Nutley said. The C90 will cost $36,900 and the T1 will cost $69,900, and both are scheduled to ship in the fourth quarter.

Although Cisco Systems' telepresence products also have 1080p quality, Tandberg claims its system is more in line with standards and will deliver better quality when hooked up with other vendors' products.

However, with IP communications standards in the state they are today, it's unlikely anyone could make interoperability simple, Arnold said.

"It's probably going to take some sweat," Arnold said. "None of this stuff is straightforward."

Ericsson, one of the world's largest wired and wireless network infrastructure makers, will focus its NXTcomm push on IPTV with a Televisionary Pavilion in its booth. The company said it will show how it can help carriers deliver video on everything from big-screen TVs to handheld devices, whenever and wherever consumers want to watch and interact with it.

A service provider and a group of vendors are going to tackle the bandwidth problem head-on with a real-world demonstration of 100G bps (bit per second) Ethernet at NXTcomm, which they call the world's first.

Carriers are gradually converting their data networks to IP and Ethernet to take advantage of relative simplicity and low cost and to better deliver services to enterprises, which already use Ethernet internally. An emerging standard for the next generation of Ethernet, following the current 10G bps, allows for both 40G bps and 100G bps versions.

Equipment makers Infinera and Avago Technologies will set up gear for the demonstration, in which network testing company Ixia will send data over XO Communications' network from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and back. Using products now under development, they will achieve that speed by "mapping" the 100G bps of traffic onto 10 "lanes" of 10G bps, a type of connection widely available today. The technology is based on a standard under development by the IEEE 802.3ba task force, which Infinera expects to be agreed upon within 18 to 24 months. The 100G bps Ethernet technology also will be useful in the backbones of large enterprise networks as more 10-Gig Ethernet pipes are installed in data centers, said Errol Ginsberg, founder and chairman of Ixia.

Arbor Networks will use the show to unveil a system for protecting high-speed Ethernet links from DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Arbor's Threat Management System 3100 can detect and mitigate DDoS attacks on a 10G Ethernet connection, using deep packet inspection of more than 80 critical IP services and applications on the network, including VoIP (voice over IP), HTTP (Hypertext Transport Protocol), instant messaging and P-to-P (peer-to-peer). It can issue reports and surgically remove only attack traffic, according to the company. Arbor has integrated TMS 3100 into its Peakflow SP platform, which performs a variety of other protection functions.

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