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.

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