Everybody is talking about the Next Generation Access broadband networks (NGA). In fact, some are claiming they will be the first when systems go online in 2012:
Next generation telecoms networks (December 2007) UK’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Postnote, Nr. 296 (4 pages) [Online] (Available: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/postpn296.pdf Last Access: September 19, 2008)
Others have begun to put it into practice already:
But the biggest challenge is:
- who gets access (e.g., providers, firms) and how – triple play – digital radio/TV, Voice over IP, Internet (more services such as VPN’s etc. for organizations)?
- who manages the dependability of this network (is it vendor, owner and/or re-seller = telco)?
- what is a public e-communication network (city owns network, hardware vendor runs it, telcos and others act as re-sellers of capacity in network to their clients)?
Today, your utility company could own a fibre optic network that is managed by a hardware vendor. The latter supplied the infrastructure owner (utility company or municipality) with the Ethernet-Service-Switches as well as the Ethernet-Access-Switches and the fibre optics cable that were laid into the ground.
The hardware vendor has a contract to service the network infrastructure for the utility company. The latter sells capacity to re-sellers including telecom companies and cable TV service providers.
How do you assure satisfactory levels of dependability and reliability in such kind of ‘public e-communications network?’
Does the regulator deal with the infrastructure owner, the re-sellers and the hardware vendor responsible for network servicing and maintenance? In fact, a telecom re-seller could hire the hardware vendor to run its services on the utility company’s network (e.g., make best use of the capacity purchased and paid for each month).
Where does the buck stop, who is responsible for resilience?
What does the regulator do?
The work of the ERG (European Regulator Group) on NGA (Next Generation Access broadband networks) is available at:
- ERG Opinion on Regulatory Principles of NGA – ERG (07) 16rev2 (77 pages – not dated) [Online] (Available: http://www.erg.eu.int/doc/publications/erg07_16rev2_opinion_on_nga.pdf Last Access: September 19, 2008) Supplementary Document to the ERG Opinion on Regulatory Principles of NGA – ERG (07) 16rev2b NGA Opinion Supplementary Doc II / 69 (69 pages – not dated) [Online] (Available: http://www.erg.eu.int/doc/publications/erg_07_16rev2b_nga_opinion_suppl_doc.pdf Last Access: September 19, 2008)
Unfortunately the NGA group has not really dealt with the reliability and dependability of NGA networks. This would be especially important to address because ever more often ownership may not be with those selling services and capacity on such infrastructure. In fact, those that re-sell may not even run the network.
The European Commission has seen the writing on the wall if this issue is not addressed in one way or the other. However, as its Press Release shows, its focus is on market issues and not resilience per se:
So if you have an opinion, work in the business or bring other skills to the table, you better take advantage and participate in the European CommIssion’s public consultation – you are given until November 14, 2008 to submit your contribution:
Commission launches public consultation on Next Generation Access Networks (NGA)
In the environment where the incumbent operator (i.e. former monopolist) owned all the infrastructure, things were a bit easier. The regulator dealt with one company regarding network resilience and security.
As a company, one made or tried to make sure that the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the monopolist contained a provision about dependability and security. Possible, the SLA also stipulated financial consequences in case of a breakdown of services.
Today, the SLA agreement the firm might secure with the telco could entail a disclaimer. The telecom service provider such as Orange or Vodafone makes sure that it is not responsible for lack of reliability due to events outside its control. The latter may apply when the utility company’s infrastructure experiences problems or the network vendor running the infrastructure screws up.
Regardless of how the above is resolved to your organization’s satisfaction, it is vastly more complex to attain resilience and dependability of one’s e-communication today than just a few years back. Unfortunately, regulators have to wake up and look beyond the obvious – assuring access to the infrastructure – and focus on the resilience issues as well (who is responsible, how is it regulated and assessed ….). Join the challenge and please remember:
1) market forces alone will not bring us more resilience without the necessary regulatory framework.
2) Competition focuses on short term matters (PS. remember the financial crisis?) such as price levels and profitability, however, assuring dependable and resilient networks requires focusing on long-term investments and building networks with the hardware/software architecture that delivers. This does not necessarily help profitability.
Get more about these issues regarding the improving of network resilience and robustness: