Ops to FCC: IP Transition Inevitable but Takes Time, Strategic Planning

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The transition to an all-IP network is well underway, but a complete transition won’t happen overnight, and it will take some smart planning to ensure consumers are well protected and informed, ISP representatives said at the FCC’ s Technology Transitions Policy Task Force workshop, the first of its kind, Mon. Commish Ajit Pai called on the agency to act on the pending petition to conduct an IP pilot program. Once created, the program will let companies choose a discrete set of wire centers where they can turn off the old TDM system and migrate customers to an all-IP platform. Such a program will enable a broader transition with essential data, the Republican said. For ISPs like Cox and Verizon, upgrading to an all-IP system is a no brainer. The traditional network is aging and has "inherent limitations" despite infrastructure improvements, said Verizon svp, national operations support Thomas Maguire. Today it’s cord cutters; tomorrow it’s "cord-nevers," he said. Over time, maintaining the legacy network will become costly and time-consuming, he said, urging accelerating the migration process. Legacy networks also take up significant physical space, said Cox vp of strategic architecture John Civiletto. Migrating to IP will enable more efficient use of facilities, he said. And events like Hurricane Sandy could help drive the transition, said Frontier svp, engineering and technology Michael Golob. As ISPs recover services, some subs might simply upgrade to a more advanced technology, he said. However, he said networks are like "oil tankers… You don’t turn them around quickly. It’s a step-by-step process." Said Maguire: "A lot of it comes down to cost for the subscriber." It’s tough to get people off older tech and move them to something more expensive, he acknowledged. While nothing will stop IP from replacing copper, the transition might take 20 or even 30 years, said David Russell, dir of solutions marketing for Calix. Meanwhile, ISPs must bring new technology in a manner that’s seamless and transparent, Civiletto said. "As we proceed, we need to focus on simplicity, consistency and reliability," he said.

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