RealTime IT News

Verizon Puts Voice in a Packet

Gearing up for the next generation of advanced network services, officials at Verizon Communications announced Tuesday they equipped two switching centers with equipment that puts phone calls on a data packet.

Armed with the Nortel Networks Succession product line, Verizon's centers in Newark, N.J., and Tampa, Fla., can take phone calls and put them over an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) platform, called voice trunking over ATM.

It's an important -- and potentially lucrative -- first step for Verizon; not only does an ATM platform put all voice calls on a data network (improving network capacity), it opens the door for other services the Baby Bell needs to compete against the cable companies in the war for broadband services down the road.

ATM technology allows audio, video and data packets to travel at the same time. With it, Verizon can offer video-on-demand (VoD), voice over IP (VoIP) and a host of other high-speed Internet applications -- outside the normal fare of digital subscriber line (DSL) service the Bell already provides.

Somewhat similar to TCP/IP, which transfers data packets from point A to point B along the fastest route, ATM isn't seen as the absolute best solution for data communications in the telecom industry.

Data traveling on the ATM network are transferred on a fixed route, which makes it easier for tracking and billing (optimal for tracking bandwidth costs of video use per subscriber). But ATM, because it uses one fixed route, makes it less adaptable to surges in network traffic.

A Verizon spokesperson said the two switching centers in New Jersey and Florida were the first of an eventual migration network-wide to the ATM architecture. A timetable on the incorporation of ATM equipment network-wide was unavailable, though Phil Harrington, Verizon voice trunking over ATM program manager, said they planned to deploy Nortel equipment "at a number of new locations over the next 18 months."

According to Verizon officials, more than 1.8 million phone calls over the ATM network have been completed.