The old discussion about the convergence of telecommunications networks and fixed-mobile services dominated the two afternoon sessions of the 15th APDC Congress, putting technology manufacturers and operators in debate. Once again, the conclusion is that convergence is already a reality to materialize in telecommunications services and that operators will be obliged to converge their networks and systems legacy for IP infrastructures in order to guarantee the bandwidth and flexibility in launching services, necessary to remain competitive.
On the Infrastructure panel, British Telecom’s Brian Levy Group Technology Officer explained in detail the plans of the British operator for the evolution of its network to a core network integrated, 21CN. BT has a very ambitious migration plan, intending to have more than 50 percent of the network migrated to the new structure by the end of 2008, ending the project by 2010/2011.
BT’s 21CN project, which includes the Fusion fixed / mobile convergence project, will start in the middle of next year in Wales, in the Cardiff region, where 350 thousand consumer lines will be ported to the new IP network.
“The project is large and ambitious […] What we want to do has not yet been done in the world, ”said Brian Levy. “We are going to move our business from the 20th century to the 21st century”, he guaranteed, explaining the advantages of cost reduction, providing better customer service and speed in the arrival of new products to the market.
On the part of technology manufacturers, the idea underlined by all is that technology already exists and is essential for operators to improve their services, responding to the demands of greater bandwidth, while controlling operating costs.
Fixed / Mobile in collision or convergence
In the second panel of the afternoon, António Coimbra, Vodafone’s vice president of marketing and operations, argued that the convergence of fixed / mobile is already a reality and that the voice is currently mostly mobile.
Citing numbers and evidence that prove his theory, the head of Vodafone left it as a provocation as a last idea: «Convergence is at best a way to replace the fixed with the mobile».
Without actually entering the war of fixed-mobile convergence, Iriarte Esteves, administrator of the PT Group, preferred to talk about the contexts in which each citizen finds himself in different situations, which highlight the fact that we are evolving into a “permanently networked” situation. As the best example of convergence, he highlighted SMS, in the voice / text convergence.
Iriarte Esteves also stressed that the main challenge for operators is to bridge the gap between what technology allows us and what users want at a given moment, in an attitude of clear restraint.
On the side of fixed operators, Xavier Rodriguez, Director of Oni, was against the same idea of the risk of pushing technologies to the market, arguing that technological availability is not a sufficient condition to advance with new services and remembering that the speed of adoption is always below expectations.
The Oni administrator also underlined that the company is already developing several converging projects, such as the most convenient and ubiquitous access, guaranteed by the opening of the local loop, the power line and fiber optics, and mobility with Wimax, a technology for which a pilot will start next year.
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