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RealTime IT News

Convergence Arriving on Backs of Trucks

CHICAGO -- The future called convergence is finally arriving as manufacturers deliver equipment that can run and manage those networks.

Convergence has been a buzzword for a while now in the industry, a phrase to describe the morphing of separate voice, data and video services onto one network, whether the platform is Wi-Fi, fiber optics or CMDA.

From it, customers can make use of integrated TV, phone and Internet services with one user interface, whether from a wireless phone, on the desktop or in front of the TV.

With it users can watch the latest sitcom on their TV, get out of the house and continue watching the show from their mobile phone or other wireless device. Convergence lets users take their call on a VoIP phone and move through both cell range and Wi-Fi hotspots while chatting away.

Service providers are laying the groundwork too. Later this year, Verizon plans to introduce Fios TV, an IP-based service that will compete with the cable industry and build out its Internet data service. SBC has plans of its own for an IP-based TV service. Both will feature interactive material.

The price drop in fiber optics has made it easier for carriers to use it in place of copper wiring, Krish Prabhu, CEO and president of Tellabs, told attendees at the SUPERCOMM telecom trade show here Wednesday. However, just having fast Internet speeds won't make it a viable option to consumers.

"The thing that's going to make the case for delivering video and fiber, it's very imperative to deliver high-definition TV and video," he said.

That's a necessary step for service providers to offer high-definition digital television (HDTV), which generally needs 17 Mbps bandwidth per set.

That's good news for a telecom industry still largely recovering from the dot-com implosion, and which later shifted to enterprise-centric products.

That's all going to change, John Chambers, Cisco president and CEO, said Tuesday. Where networking was once focused on transactions, the future is all about interactions -- one device talking to another. Those interactions, he said, will be managed by ISPs .

The outspoken Cisco chief said that while 48 percent of the company's revenues come from commercial companies, Cisco is investing 50 percent of its research and development monies on equipment to be used by service providers. He said the investment was made because the services that will run on converged networks will come from service providers.

"We wouldn't be investing in you if that wasn't true," he told attendees.

Hardware will be needed to manage the different services -- a blade server to manage VoIP users, another to track cell phone users and so on. He also said converged networks will need to place a heavy emphasis on security.

With smart phones talking to computers that are talking to TVs, the threat of network attacks becomes greater, a thought echoed by Patricia Russo, Lucent Technologies chairman and CEO.

Russo said with innovation comes responsibility. While the diversity of the hardware industry makes for many new technologies and functionality, she said it also makes it more of a challenge to address security in a coordinated fashion.

"That's why more than ever, while we continue to compete and slug it out in the marketplace, it's critically important that we all work together in the industry toward a more secure network environment," she said.

Russo broke down her thoughts into three requirements of: availability of security services like anti-virus and spam blocking; security for wireless signals while also supporting legitimate law enforcement needs; and a federated identification management standard and universal authentication processes.