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What is the NGN?

The Next Generation Network (NGN) is a popular phrase used to describe the network that will replace the current PSTN network around the world today used to carry voice, fax, modem signals, etc.

By definition, the NGN is essentially a managed IP-based (i.e., packet-switched) network that enables a wide variety of services. Among those services are VoIP, videoconferencing, Instant Messaging, e-mail, and all other kinds of pakcet-switched communication services.

The ITU defined the term NGN in Recommendation Y.2001 as follows:

Next Generation Network (NGN): 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 offers unrestricted access by users to different service providers. It supports generalized mobility which will allow consistent and ubiquitous provision of services to users.

One of the most important aspects of NGN is the deliberate separation of the access provider from the "service" provider (see the highlighted text above). For those that do not understand what this means, it means that the access provider (the service provider that provides you, the customer, with access to the NGN) may be different than the service provider that provides you with various services, such as voice and video communication, e-mail, stock quotes, or other services.

We say "may", because the access provider and service provider might be the same company. For example, as a subscriber to cable services, you may elect to purchase voice (telephone) services from your cable company. In that case, your access provider and your voice service provider is one in the same. However, the NGN removes this restriction from you—you have a choice. If you prefer to purchase voice services from another company (e.g., Vonage or Lingo), you have that option, too. Never before have consumers had so many options.

Of course, not everybody is happy with the ability for consumers to have a choice. Why? Because the NGN represents a real threat to the current business model of incumbent service providers. The old-world carriers would prefer to control both the access and the services, blocking competitors from being able to come into the market and offer competitive services.

However, times change and consumers have the right to choose the service providers that provide them services. We have just entered a new era where customers with broadband Internet access can now select their voice service provider of choice—perhaps one that physically exists in an entirely different country! As the incumbent carriers start exploring the possibilities the NGN will bring, they will soon realize an unbounded opportunity for new sources of revenue through a multiplicity of new kinds of services.

As we move forward deploying the Next Generation Network, users may have one or many access providers providing access in a variety of ways, including cable, DSL, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, fiber, etc. into the NGN. Once connected, the options for service providers for voice, video, and data services will be virtually unlimited.

We live in exciting times and are just on the verge of a revolution.