When it comes to technological developments, perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated is the concept of the all-IP network. The concept that many of our standard communications services could be brought to heel under just one network is a tempting one, with the idea of putting all transfer protocols and standards in one class reducing costs, cutting back on time needed to regulate the networks, and in general, making better service across a wide variety of platforms. There's just one problem: the all-IP network doesn't actually exist. At least, not yet.
Some have theorized that the all-IP network may finally make it to us thanks to the growth of 4G LTE (News - Alert) coverage, as well as the expected further benefits yielded by VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and cable's move to DOCSIS 3.0. Yet, since the all-IP network won't be so much one big network as several smaller networks intermingling with each other, there are still plenty of technical issues needing addressed. Transport technologies are an issue, with the switch from circuit-based voice traffic needing to go entirely to VoIP, an issue that could take a good long time to completely happen. Legacy technologies like frame relay need to be updated. Cable access needs to convert to PacketCable, and plenty more actually needs to come around to get the all-IP network truly active, especially the full realization of VoLTE.
But the stakes are impressively high. With one network, economies of scale can factor in. IT becomes simplified, dealing with one common network technology instead of a variety of disparate communications systems. Better yet, it also opens the door up to new services that can come from a wide array of different providers. Even better, the potential for reductions in equipment is huge; some estimates suggest that a room full of Class 4 and 5 circuit switching equipment can be replaced, without noticeable impact in service, by just half a hack of VoIP network hardware.
Service providers are putting plenty of resources into the development of the all-IP network, and with that kind of force behind it, it remains, essentially, only a matter of time until the all-IP network goes from a fond dream to a full reality. But there remains plenty of work to go until that's done, so seeing the all-IP network in play any time soon -- say, within the next five years -- is a long shot at best.
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Edited by Rich Steeves