Telco TV

Cisco Moves to Boost IP

12/02/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Cisco Systems Inc. is introducing two new major products to its Internet protocol-based next-generation architecture, both aimed at helping platform providers, including cable companies, cope with the demands of rising amounts of video on their networks and the coming growth of wireless devices that will perform services like retrieving e-mail from broadband accounts.

One product is an IP dense wave-division multiplexing platform. The other is a session border controller and associated media gateway for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) applications and non-IMS applications.

GETTING 40 GIGABITS

Cable companies, including Comcast, have been delivering on-demand video streams using Internet protocol for several years. In most cases, operators have installed 10-Gigabit dense wave-division multiplexing technology to speed those video streams around their metro and local-area systems.

Cisco’s new IP DWDM platforms allow operators to increase throughputs to 40 Gb, with the installation of 40-Gb ports on to existing 10-Gb systems, said Suraj Shetty, director of marketing in Cisco’s routing and service provider technology group.

“The 40-Gigabit technology is compatible with current 10-Gigabit DWDM equipment,” he said. “It takes 40 Gigabits of capacity and packs it into existing the 10-Gigabit DWDM framework.”

The 40-Gb ports would allow operators to eliminate the physical transponder layer between their Cisco routers and their reconfigurable add/drop multiplexer systems, Shetty said.

POSSIBLE SAVINGS

Such a move could lower capital expenditures by 50% by reducing the number of devices and active components providers must track in their networks, Shetty said.

The new IP DWDM platform might have some immediate benefit to cable companies. Cisco’s new session border controller and media gateway products, meanwhile, might may hold more long-term allure for cable, especially in light of the recent agreement between top cable firms and Sprint Nextel to develop new wireless-communications services.

The new session border controller works alongside Cisco’s CSR 12000 series router and delivers voice calls for IMS and non-IMS applications. The MGX 8880 media gateway provides service for wireless, wireline and cable applications.

Historically, cable has not pursued IMS and SIP (session initiated protocol) applications as they applied to voice applications over the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) platform.

The cable industry took great pains to point out the security and reliability of its DOCSIS-based PacketCable platform and voice-over-IP extension products.

Companies like Vonage Holdings Corp., which relied on SIP technology, were less reliable, cable operators argued, especially to Wall Street analysts.

SIP’S MORE RELIABLE NOW

But reliable SIP applications based on new IMS standards have begun to take hold in wireless phone marketing, said Peter Clarke, marketing director at Cisco’s service provider group.

Wireless, wireline and cable carriers (through the industry consortium CableLabs) have all begun to add SIP language in current specification work now underway, Clarke said, because the technology has improved over the past few years.

Specifically, cable began to add IMS-type language to PacketCable Multimedia specifications over the past few months.

“Many of the functions are the same functions as mobile market,” Clarke said. “The stance has changed, partly driven by the need for easy convergence between mobile and cable infrastructure.”

For example, handing cell phone calls off to cable’s network inside the home will require cable and wireless technology to “talk” to each other. That’s where SIP and IMS standards come into play, Clarke said.

Push-to-talk cell phones are an example of an IMS application available today, running on the cellular companies’ IP platform, Clarke said. “The promise of IMS is the seamless roaming with handoff for fixed mobile convergence.”

For a telephone company, it would be the ability for a Verizon Communications Inc. subscriber to seamlessly use a Verizon-linked phone in the home, in the car and in connection with a Wi-Fi hot spot, he said. New dual-mode handsets that are coming on the market would allow for such flexibility.

“You could save valuable mobile minutes,” Clarke said.

CARD AND SOFTWARE

Cisco’s new session border control product is both a network card that can be inserted into Cisco’s existing CSR 12000 routers and associated software to run new IMS-type applications.

Shetty said there are 30,000 such routers deployed by both cable and telephone companies today. “The session border controller card goes into the router slot,” Clarke said. “The card can be used to deploy different services and software.”

The session border controller will allow operators to provide advanced security functions associated with voice services, Clarke said.

EASING FIREWALL ISSUE

For instance, the controller’s software would allow VoIP phone calls to travel through personal computer firewalls that can block such services. “Firewalls are good for data, but they tend to get in the way of voice,” Clarke said.

The software would open the firewall for a period of time to let phone traffic through, then close up again, he said.

Another example is a phone-call handoff between cable and Sprint.

“Both service providers might want to mask details of their network to the people they are sharing info with,” Clarke said. “They want to take the traffic, but they don’t want the other to see in their network.”

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