Recently the Bahamas Telecom Company (BTC) decided to migrate its existing countrywide wireline network to IP using Sonus and Calix gear. The move to IP will reduce the amount of equipment that needs managing and in addition, the Bahamian phone company expects to save over one million dollars a year in electricity as a result of this switch. Another million or more is expected to be saved in reduced upgrade and maintenance costs.
In addition to replacing the existing infrastructure, the plan includes a disaster recovery site in Miami which will enable the carrier to quickly recover the island’s communications network in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.
What is interesting about this news is that Hassan Ahmed, CEO and chairman at Sonus Networks mentioned that the Bahamas is ahead of many major carriers in its adoption of IP-based telephony. While most of us in the telecom field know this to be true, it is still baffling to me. But more on this at the end of this piece.
The components that will be implemented include the Sonus Insight Element Management System (EMS), Sonus PSX, Sonus GSX9000 media gateway and Network Border Switch, the Sonus ASX Class 5 feature server and Sonus SGX. This advanced IP-based network also includes the integration of access solutions from Calix, including the Calix C7 Multiservice Access Platform (MSAP).
I visited Sonus in the company’s Massachusetts headquarters to learn more and during the meeting I spoke with Vikram Saksena, the company’s CTO. Saksena told me they won the contract because of their ability to scale and provide everything the customer was looking for. Some of these included Class 4 and 5 services – as well as business and consumer applications.
Part of this solution includes session border control equipment – products which industry leader and Massachusetts based Acme Packet also supplies. I asked Saksena about how his company’s products compete with Acme Packet and he explained that Acme Packet’s 9000 platform has some issues/growing pains and it is not as strong a product as the Acme Packet appliance (referring to the NET-NET 4000 system). He also explained that his company’s product can also handle transcoding – something Acme packet cannot do at the moment. (I am scheduled to have a future briefing with Acme Packet where this will likely be discussed. Update — see notes below regarding transcoding).
Latest Update from Seamus Hourihan VP, Marketing & Product Management Acme Packet:
Our Net-Net 9000 platform supports transcoding in the chassis via optional transcoding units. Up to 8,000 calls can be transcoded today with plans to double that capacity.
Supports transcoding and transrating at IP-IP network borders for both wireline and wirless codecs
- Wireline codecs : G711 a-law & mu-law, G.729 A/B, G.729 E, G.723.1, G.726, G.728, iLBC
- Wireless codecs: AMR, AMR-WB, GSM EFR, GSM FR, EVRC, SMV
- Fax: T.38, G.711
Saksena did explain his company still works with Acme Packet in other customer sites. I asked what he thought the future of communications will be and he told me he thinks applications and services are next.
Having espoused this very concept to my readers for well over a decade I asked for details and to this he replied voice messaging integration, internet integration: social networking and IM. He also explained we will be seeing more mobile video and web 2.0 apps.
I took the opportunity to ask about avatars as I have written about this a few times lately. His response was that they have seen trials of avatar products but nothing mainstream yet.
He also said there is a trend towards personalization and intelligent assistants – this was a point he emphasized. I agree that this is what I want but I have been writing about these things since Wildfire in the mid-nineties – and I wonder what the wait is. Then again I talked about unified communications back then as well – and it seems the concept will become mainstream as part of unified communications over a decade later.
The future for Sonus is to move up the application layer and the IMX 2.0 Multimedia Application Platform is a big part of this strategy. Think of the IMX as the ultra-flexible application environment you need to build next-gen communications applications.
The platform comes with a bunch of prototype applications and – surprise-one of them is a Multimedia Digital Avatar. Others include something called Any-To-Any Messaging Server, a service which enables you to instantly contact others regardless of how they want to be reached. IM, e-mail, TTS — it really doesn’t matter. During a demo, I saw an IM flash on the TV screen – interrupting the programming. One point made was that subscribers could set their preference to “do not disturb” unless the subject was of interest such as poker, shopping, etc.
There are a number of reference applications which have been built by the company such as video session transfer, intelligent IP Video Integration, Interactive Advertising, Click To Dial, Call Blast, and FMC but perhaps my favorite has to be parental controls where you can really become your kids worst big brother nightmare. There are two ways to take this statement – if you don’t have kids you will likely be appalled by it. If you have them, you know this can be a good thing.
So what sorts of things can you do with such a service? How about curfew, time-of day restrictions, minute allocation, white lists, black lists, and SMS notification of black list violations. In the real world this means making sure your kids listen to you. How? Well, cell phone restriction is the “grounding” of the next decade. What do kids care if they are sent to their room if they can still text and use mobile social networking like a fiend?
SMS notification of black list violations mentioned above is really great as it allows you to be notified if someone is trying to make a call to a 900 number or other number that is prohibited. The concept here is that it is not enough to block the call, you want to be aware when such calls are made. Of course this can be important if someone other than your child is trying to make these calls.
My favorite application in this family of reference applications is the call redirect feature. Say your daughter breaks up with someone and he is not the best at taking hints. He keeps calling. At a certain point you redirect his calls to your cell phone where you explain why it is best not to call your daughter again.
In conclusion, it seems ridiculous that more carriers aren’t deploying all these applications. There is so much potential for service providers to provide new services such as the ones I saw in the labs at Sonus.
When will larger, more mainstream carriers start to deploy some of these intriguing services? Perhaps we need to wait for some of these telecom executives to travel to Atlantis where they will get to experience that a small group of islands near the equator is way ahead of them, generating tremendous revenue while saving money on maintenance and electricity.