It’s been a while coming, but there is growing consensus that the transition to IP is attaining critical mass.
Despite shrinking budgets, an increasing proportion of service provider capex is being allocated to NGN in the core, and to broadband fibre and wireless 3G+ at the edge. These networks support new services, such as HD voice and video, as well as driving adoption of the more established IP services such as VoIP. It means that the industry is moving well beyond plain old telephony services and into uncharted territory where multimedia applications, decoupled from hardware, have the potential to move between end-user devices, subscribers and service providers.
The IP exchange (IPX) model is designed to help service providers navigate this sea of applications and to bridge the islands of heterogeneous networks. IPX is a technical and commercial framework that aims to deliver the most cost-efficient and direct-route connectivity between multiple parties, in a secure environment with guaranteed end-to-end quality of service (QoS) and cascaded payments between its members. However, some industry commentators have voiced concerns that IPX could be used to prolong the life of outmoded commercial arrangements, and that regulators need to provide a steadying hand to ensure that national and long-distance points of interconnect remain open to all comers.
Confusion abounds, and despite an increasing number of IPX providers coming to market, service and customer announcements are thin on the ground; many issues remain unresolved. Clearly, we remain in the early stages of IPX development. It is a contentious topic, and one which many have yet to fully evaluate or adopt a formal strategic position.
It therefore seems fair to say that IPX represents a confluence of the market’s confusion, concerns and uncertainty surrounding the impact of IP on current interconnection models as the worlds of telecoms and the internet converge. The multitude of commercial, operational and technical considerations surrounding national and international long-distance interconnect creates what one industry commentator describes as a “10,000 piece puzzle”. But when old-school and new-school thinking collides, market forces will eventually prevail. The challenge, as always, is to ensure an open and competitive environment for all, but one in which a return on investment must be assured among all players if industry advancement is to be maintained.