Till recently voice and data used to be transported on separate networks. With advances in network technologies this separation is no longer there. Next Generation Networking (NGN) is a term which refers to the technology where a single network is capable of transporting all information and services (voice, data, video) by encapsulating these into packets. NGNs are commonly built around the Internet Protocol, and therefore the term “all-IP” is also sometimes used to describe the transformation towards NGN (adapted from Wikipedia NGN page). The IP Multimedia Subsystem, IMS, is a related concept to NGN. Technologies such as WiFi and WiMAX  belong to the NGN area.

The NGN illustration below is from Cisco Systems (get full paper in pdf or html).

ITU Definition of NGN – A NGN is a packet-based network able to provide telecommunication services and able to make use of multiple broadband, QoS-enabled transport technologies and in which service-related functions are independent from underlying transport-related technologies. It enables unfettered access for users to networks and to competing service providers and/or services of their choice. It supports generalized mobility which will allow consistent and ubiquitous provision of services to users. 

The interesting thing is that countries like Pakistan were able to adopt (or should I say import?) NGN without too much difficulty as they did not have a hefty investment in old technology infrastructure. The US companies, for example took considerable time to make the change. Only in 2001 the move beyond 2G was made which allowed the US companies to go from circuit switching to packet switching.

As ITU points out, the concept behind NGN is a shift away from an era of separate networks (such as narrowband fixed, broadband fixed, cellular mobile, cable TV), bearing different services (voice, video, text, data) to multiple devices, e.g. fixed handset, mobile handset, PC. NGN moves towards a unitary IP-based network in which the common features of the user environment (for example user preferences, contacts, databases, files and so on) are accessible as the user moves around, say between home, car and office, or between desk and meeting room. From a regulation point of view Next generation networks (NGNs) are likely to require next-generation regulation as the problems of scarcity are replaced by dilemmas of abundance and complexity.

Per ITU the NGN functional architecture should incorporate the following principles.

  • Support for multiple access technologies: The NGN functional architecture shall offer the configuration flexibility needed to support multiple access technologies.

  • Distributed control: This will enable adaptation to the distributed processing nature of packet-based networks and support location transparency for distributed computing.

  • Open control: The network control interface should be open to support service creation, service updating, and incorporation of service logic provision by third parties.

  • Independent service provisioning: The service provisioning process should be separated from transport network operation by using the above-mentioned distributed, open control mechanism. This is intended to promote a competitive environment for NGN development in order to speed up the provision of diversified NGN services.

  • Support for services in a converged network: This is needed to generate flexible, easy-to-use multimedia services, by tapping the technical potential of the converged, fixed-mobile functional architecture of the NGN.

  • Enhanced security and protection: This is the basic principle of an open architecture. It is imperative to protect the network infrastructure by providing mechanisms for security and survivability in the relevant layers.

  • Alcatel, Nortel, Huawei, Siemens and Cisco are a few of the major companies who dominate NGN. Many of them are suppliers for service providers in Pakistan. As a case study, lets take a look at Wateen’s network which is poised for triple play in Pakistan.  Wateen’s website provides the following information about their NGN and other networks.

    Wateen’s Next Generation Network (NGN) Core

    • IMS enabled converged IP/MPLS core multi-access network based on layered architecture designed to provide quad-play services (voice, data, multimedia and limited mobility) and much more
    • Robust class 4 and class 5 soft switches with a host of applications and value-added services to provide depth and breadth to our product offering

     Wateen’s Fixed and Wireless Access Networks

    • Metro Access Network (MAN) with 96 fibers G652/655 optic fiber and IP-Ethernet rings in all major cities including Fiber To The Curb (FTTC)
    • National Wireless WiMAX 802.16e 4G network
    • National Wireless 802.11 WiFi hotspots

    Wateen’s Optical Fiber Network Infrastructure

    • Multi-terabyte DWDM nationwide, fully redundant with ring architecture 5000+ km long haul optic fiber network connecting all major cities and neighboring countries
    • Regional and international connectivity through optic fiber and VSAT hubs
    • Tier-1 telehousing, data center and managed solutions based on international standards

    Other rivals of Wateen also use similar cutting edge technology – that is the only way to compete as NGN allows to cut costs and to offer new services. NGN is a broad topic and this post is not going to do justice to it but I hope it provides a starting point. Please share any other sites which cover NGN information for Pakistan.