Motorola Moves Toward Full IP Switched Access

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Motorola Broadband Communications Sector has unveiled its "Switched IP Access" system for cable-based telephony services, claiming the product will enable operators with traditional class-5 switches to quickly deploy a mix of data and carrier-class voice services.

Rather than providing a migration path from circuit switched-voice services to IP, Motorola's new line of telephony equipment will help cable operators move from local-access services to a more robust, full-IP offering, said vice president and general manager of VoIP solutions Charles Dougherty.

The equipment "leverages class-5 switches that are already in place," Dougherty said. That's important, because cable operators that want to move from local-access IP to full IP will be required to simply incorporate software upgrades, rather than changing out stacks of equipment, he said.

Dougherty said Motorola's phone equipment has already been certified with class-5 switches from Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies.

Motorola's gear will be used to tap what is expected to become an extremely lucrative market, as broadband providers move from circuit-switched to packet-based voice services. According to GartnerGroup Inc.'s Dataquest research, global voice-over-packet services are expected to generate about $87 billion by 2004.

Motorola's switched-IP system includes its line of customer-premises equipment, which can be located inside or outside of customers' homes, as well as its "CAS 2000" cable-modem termination system and its "NETsentry" access-network management systems.

The company said its signaling and transport elements are based on the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1 and PacketCable specifications.

Though Cable Television Laboratories Inc. is expected today (Oct. 23) to launch the first wave of certification and qualification testing for equipment based on DOCSIS 1.1, Motorola said it likely won't submit its equipment for certification until the next 1.1 round, slated for January 2001.

In addition to its own, home-grown equipment, Motorola has tapped Nuera Communications Inc.'s ORCA Internet-protocol digital-terminal gateway interface to complement its switched-IP system. This would allow operators to migrate to an end-to-end IP-based system as the technology matures, the company said.

As part of that agreement, Motorola and Nuera have inked a joint marketing and development pact designed to develop additional voice-over-IP technologies.

Those technologies will come in handy when full-feature IP services start to make inroads in about 18 to 24 months.

"We're in trials now, and we expect to see some commercial deployments by the middle of next year," Dougherty said.

Motorola already has one deployment agreement for the new equipment under its belt. Earlier this year, AT & T Broadband said it would use the gear for initial deployment of VoIP services in two of cities. The MSO has not disclosed where those trials would occur.

Dougherty said two more MSOs have agreed to try Motorola's IP equipment, and move into commercial deployment by mid-2001, but he declined to name them. Those operators should be revealed by the beginning of next year, he added.

Though full IP has a whole new infrastructure with which to contend, Motorola said its equipment will also reduce the complexity and technical risk typically involved with VoIP deployments.

Dougherty said using the existing class-5 infrastructure is the key to that claim.

"From a back-office perspective, it's transparent," he said. "Cable operators will be able to drop in [equipment] and compete today with circuit-switched equipment that is being deployed today."

At the same time, Motorola will add home-networking elements to its gear by the end of 2000, enabling customers to share bandwidth with a number of consumer-electronics devices.

The company's first iteration of that technology will include Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (HomePNA) capabilities. Dougherty said Motorola's HomePNA equipment will enter trials this year, and go commercial by the end of the first quarter of 2001. By that time, Dougherty expects the equipment to also handle HomeRF, a wireless home-networking protocol.

"We'll look at 802.11 and other advanced 5-gigahertz solutions, probably towards the end of next year," Dougherty said.

Though IP is definitely the future for voice services, circuit-switched offerings aren't quite dead in the water yet.

Circuit-switched service "is working for some operators, and they like it," Dougherty said. "But 2002 will likely be a big transition year for IP."

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