Next-generation network rollout begins with €2.5m testbed

10 Mar 2010

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Ireland’s next-generation network (NGN) rollout has started subtly with the creation of a €2.5m NGN Test Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology, involving Enterprise Ireland, Eircom, Meteor and Ericsson.

The NGN test centre, which will be based at the acclaimed Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) will seek to tie together the strands that will combine to create a state-of-the-art NGN for the entire country, merging fibre with GSM and existing PSTN assets.

Ireland as a NGN leader

Speaking this morning with Siliconrepublic.com, the NGN Test Centre’s manager Shane Dempsey said the project has the potential to turn Ireland into an NGN leader for the world and overcome the broadband issues of the past decade.

“The world is moving to IP-based networking technologies for telecoms and the internet. Effectively, what is required to enable Irish businesses to take advantage is a centre of expertise and test infrastructure.

“We’ve teamed up with Ericsson and Enterprise Ireland to create an NGN test centre that will effectively set in motion a private carrier-grade network that Irish businesses can use.”

Dempsey explained that already an Irish SME called Druid Software, Eircom and a Finnish consultancy called Codnomicom are using the network as a test bed.

The entire NGN sphere is beginning to gain pace and yesterday Cisco unveiled a 322-terabyte router capable of handling demanding telecoms, video, business and entertainment applications for the future.

Using NGN infrastructure, voice, data, video and other types of information can be transmitted over one network with internet technology. Globally, the NGN business opportunity is massive. NGN technology is backwards-compatible, meaning it can work with existing "plain old telephone services" (known as POTS) while creating new and global opportunities for service developers over the next few years.

Projected NGN figures

Technology research firm Gartner predicts that the NGN services market in North America alone will be $14bn by 2015 and annual sales of NGN infrastructure products will increase by 60pc over the next five years. The test centre’s mission is to assist Irish firms in taking advantage of this lucrative opportunity.

Dempsey told Siliconrepublic.com that the traditional PSTN network in Ireland has a role to play in the future NGN as does the nationwide GSM networks of the various mobile carriers.

“If you look at Eircom, its owners STT also own Global Crossing and are thus one of the biggest IP transit networks in the world. Telefonica O2, for example, are advancing with their NGN research and planning.

“NGN technology has been talked about for some time but now it’s coming fast and furious. It is about taking traditional PSTN telecoms to the maturity and reliability required. The traditional PSTN has been evolving over a period of time and will have to work with the latest technologies,” Dempsey said, adding that Eircom’s €1bn investment in its fibre core network is a crucial piece in the puzzle.

What is IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem?

Specifically, the TSSG is focusing on a technology called IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem – which is fundamental to the future of mobile networks. “This also has implications for the future of fixed-to-mobile and IPTV applications. It is to become a common way to do switching for all multimedia services, guaranteeing quality of services, authentication and even accounting systems. It is where the internet of tomorrow meets today’s telecoms network and legacy integration support.”

Dempsey said the NGN Test Centre will strategically place Ireland at the coalface of what is becoming a European and global movement. “We’re seeing operators throughout Europe beginning to establish agreements with technology vendors. In every market, mobile and fixed line operators are going to have to co-operate. Co-operation is what was integral to the success of GSM making Europe a global leader in mobile. The same could be true for NGNs.”

He explained that the total investment so far in the NGN Test Centre, including technology and support from Ericsson and Enterprise Ireland, amounts to €2.5m. The centre staff includes five people with expertise in network management and telecoms service development.

He said that the carrier-grade network being developed by the NGN Test Centre is capable of being connected to by any of the nation’s network operators. “The hardware itself is basically a midsize network operator configuration which is capable of handling tens of thousands of concurrent media streams for IPTV, he said.

One application that Eircom will be demonstrating will be the integration of social media, such as Facebook with IMS.

Dempsey said the NGN network will initially be a limited resources that will be up for 200 usable days throughout the year.

By John Kennedy

Photo: A €2.5m NGN Test Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology is a base for the roll out of Ireland’s next-generation network

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com