A 'next-generation network' (NGN) combining the internet with fixed-line and mobile telephony infrastructures will begin to emerge in the next two years, industry experts have predicted.
According to analyst Gartner, this hybrid NGN will be the underlying infrastructure supporting all communications needs.
NGN will unify three networks - public switched telephone, internet and wireless - and will focus on the customisation of communications services purchased at individual subscriber level on the enterprise and/or the consumer side.
"These customised communications services will radically change the definition of what constitutes a call," said David Fraley, principal analyst for Gartner's worldwide telecoms and networking group.
"In the future, calls will include voice, video, data, TV broadcasts and multimedia collaboration. In many cases, these will be combined into a single communications session."
Gartner analysts are urging telcos and internet service providers to start investing in infrastructure to support the demands of this emerging unified network.
"Deferring maintenance expense can occur for a while, but not forever," said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, principal analyst for Gartner's worldwide telecoms and networking group.
Delaying investments could mean that carriers are forced not only to play catch up with their investments but to spend more to cater for excessive and complex traffic demands and to generate sources of additional service revenue quickly, Tratz-Ryan warned.
Gartner predicts that the market for the deployment of NGN equipment will show recovery from 2005. During the next few years, voice over IP (VoIP) and NGN will mature further and carriers will regard them as carrier grade.
The equipment will be capable of supporting the highest quality of service-based traffic in almost any network and service providers will change their deployment strategies that involve the replacement or upgrade of selective network elements towards a broad deployment for NGN and VoIP solutions, the analyst said.
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