service providers in India have to add value in the form of
services along with traditional bandwidth access. Brad
Gray, Vice President, Asia South Pacific, Unisphere Networks
talks about the key strategies broadband service providers
need to adopt to stay competitive. by Soutiman Das Gupta
connectivity is important, broadband service providers have
to add value in the form of services on top of it to stay
abreast of competition”
will a broadband service provider in India keep abreast of
It is important for a broadband service provider to offer
IP-driven services as value-adds along with broadband access
services to keep abreast of competition. Many broadband service
providers in India have laid optical fiber to provide last
mile broadband access. And many others offer various access
technologies and methods like DSL, Ethernet-over-cable, Trunk
lines, Frame Relay, ATM, wireless, and wireline. But all the
providers in the marketplace seem to service only a very primary
need connectivity. Although connectivity is important, one
has to add value in the form of services on top of it to stay
abreast of competition.
This is especially important because the market for high-speed
broadband services in India has grown rapidly due to an ever-increasing
subscriber demand for IP bandwidth. And this growing demand
over time will translate to more profit for service providers.
In such a scenario, the provider that offers more value-added
services over plain connectivity option will
Value may be added in the form of VoIP (Voice over Internet
Protocol), bandwidth prioritization, security services, and
bandwidth on demand. And these value-added differentiated
services should be provided without sacrificing
the wire speed of the connection. This can
turn out to be an important part in a provider's growth model.
are the technology areas that a service provider should pay
is critical for a service provider to provide consistent connectivity
and make adequate bandwidth provision for all its subscribers.
It should integrate its value-added services with carrier-class
routing. It is also important to provide scalable subscriber
access to keep pace with growth in the number of subscribers
and increase in roll-out of services.
The router at the edge of the network needs software and hardware
features that can offer PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol), value
differentiated services, and individual customer interfaces
while maintaining wire-rate performance. Development of technology
at the provider's edge is the key to growth and perhaps the
future of broadband networks.
Previous generation routers were not designed to terminate
thousands of simultaneous individual connections. To address
this limitation, enterprises used adjunct systems in the form
of router stacks. This helped offload aggregation and management
functions from a single device. But a certain number of performance
issues still existed.
Early broadband networks supported customers who used bandwidth
in the range of 2-4 Kbps. This has changed. An average enterprise
customer today demands a minimum
of one Mbps. So when service providers with
older networks tried to scale up to match the high
requirements, reliability and performance issues
How can these reliability and performance issues be addressed?
may use a broadband router built with ASIC to address this
problem. ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) is
a custom-designed chip for a specific application rather than
a general-purpose chip like a microprocessor. In simple terms,
it performs all the routing functions in the hardware. Many
legacy routers carry out routing in the software. It was all
right then. But now you need to scale up. You need to change
the way you look at your router.
The provider's network architecture should be able to take
a packet from any user and move it across at wire speed. It
should also be able to layer services on this functionality
without impacting the network's performance.
Does the intelligence in a service provider's network sit
at the core?
No, the intelligence is at the edge of the network, specifically
on the routers at the edge. The only job of the core IP architecture
in a broadband service provider's network is to move packets
very fast and in large numbers. IP data packets come in and
go out, that's all. If you look at a telco's network, even
if it's an MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) core its
just moving traffic. The core network may send data on multiple
paths, offer resilience and reliability, but it's just transporting
You can introduce security policies and perform jobs like
packet classification and queuing for individual customers
at the edge. You can also introduce virtual router functionality
at this point. This technology lets each connection use all
the functionalities of the router like its very own dedicated
device. So one box is effectively many virtual routers where
the customers and ISPs can connect.
When a subscriber enters the network through a virtual router,
it is an isolated connection. There is no connection between
each virtual router inside the box. There may be thousands
of users assigned individual virtual routers in the same box
but one virtual router cannot talk to another. There are separate
route tables to introduce this functionality and one need
to take two connections physically out of the box to join
them. User authentication mechanisms can be used to map the
connection into the system.
Priorities, policies, and queuing for individual customers
and individual businesses are done at the edge. This is the
first point of contact for a customer, so work is done on
a per-customer basis. Once the traffic hits the core, the
system does not relate the data to an individual customer
anymore since it already has been addressed and classified.
The core performs its functions on all the packets in the
network as a whole.
For example, incoming VoIP data packets may be prioritized,
policed, queued, and tagged 'red' at the edge. The core of
the network now knows what the packets are all about and can
forward them accordingly. Service value additions like security,
bandwidth priority, and IP-differentiated QoS are also performed
at the edge. Only a few router manufacturers produce edge
routers that offer these functionalities.
From which sector do you see revenue generated for broadband
service providers in India?
India the revenue for broadband service providers is mainly
driven by services in the corporate sector. The success among
enterprises will pave a path for residential access. And revenue
figures from the residential sector will pick up fast. But
there will always be a mix of access technologies.
For example, India has a very large cable TV penetration.
It's much more than the telephone user base. Service providers
already offering DSL or leased lines can also think of offering
services through cable. The provider does not need to build
a separate platform for cable, Ethernet, ATM, and leased lines.
He can use routers that support all these technologies and
build a single network to deliver these services. No matter
what access technology and physical location, the platform
stays the same.
Many successful providers today may strictly sell bandwidth
per rupee. But as it works out, it's not a long term success
Networks was founded in March 1999 when Siemens AG merged
three voice and data networking companies, Castle Networks,
Redstone Communications, and Argon Networks with Siemens Information
and Communications Networks Group.
The company's primary focus is to deliver services over IP
infrastructures. Unisphere provides IP networking equipment
that enables service providers and enterprises to use and
offer IP-driven services for both voice and data networks.
It has products like edge routers, media gateways, soft switches,
and management consoles and application services like broadband
connectivity and voice services.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at