As the Sprint-MSO consortium revs up the engines on the race to the quad play, my mind has started playing a flash micromedia video covering seamless wireless installation. (Training people have warped daydreams!) Watching the part of the video where the cable installer bumps head on to customer expectations, I began to think about the challenges of tying all this new stuff together. Try this scenario on for size. Installer: "Good morning, Mrs. Jones. My name is Jay, and I’m here to install your Total Solution to all your communications needs. May I come in?" Cable customer: "Certainly! I’m really looking forward to having one device that lets me get all my phone calls, receive voice and e-mail, watch my soaps and sports, turn on the heat, and check the oven settings for tonight’s dinner while I’m at the office." "I heard that all you need to do is connect a little cradle device to my phone jack, and that won’t take long, will it? How much time will you need?" (Thoughtful pause, followed by carefully scripted answer). Installer: "Well, a lot depends on how ready your house is for the Total Solution. We’ve found that we can complete an installation in as little as a half hour, but in some cases, more time is required to prepare your home’s wiring and connections to our network. I’ll need to do a walk-through of your home and its communications devices to be sure we provide you with the best communications experience possible." (Fade to a list of modules that prepare our installer to face the challenges of single-family home wiring, multiple dwelling unit [MDU] wiring and interfaces, router programming, home appliance overview, instructing the customer on operation of dual mode handsets, Internet protocol [IP] voice, home gateways, and personal video recorder [PVR] interfaces.) The objective Behind the flow of my hypothetical training video is the objective of equipping the installer with the knowledge and tools to make the solution work the way the customer envisions it. As service providers compete for the entire communications package, there is going to be more and more need for the installer to create custom installations combining customer premises wiring, subscriber equipment and specialized interface hardware. These interfaces are already beginning to appear in the world of cable voice over IP (VoIP). For example, consider number portability. Letting the subscriber keep the same phone number requires coordination between installation scheduling and the porting process. Typically, the port must be arranged in a relatively narrow time window to coincide with the customer installation visit and provisioning of the multimedia terminal adapter (MTA). Coordinating that window between the old provider and the cable company can be challenging; it can often increase the time between when the subscriber orders our service and the actual installation of that service. Hardware interface solutions are available from Sistellia (www.sistellia.com), TII Network Technologies (www.tiinettech.com) and PCI Technologies (www.pci.com) that allow both activities to be conducted independently. The basic principle is the same for all three offerings: A switch is installed between the house wiring and both providers of telephony service. Until the first phone call via the new cable telephony service, the subscriber wiring is connected to the telephone company line. The first time ringing current appears on the new cable telephony line, the switch is set to provide incoming service from that new line only. Probably the most noticeable difference among the solutions offered by the three companies is the packaging. The TII switch is an integral part of a network interface device (NID) box intended for mounting on the side of the home, while Sistellia’s Netjax Quick Switch and PCI Technologies’ DigiMax devices are small, standalone modules, the size of a surface-mounted wall jack. MDU apps Sistellia and its research arm Sitelle Technologies have also come up with variations on the Netjax technology to provide for the different needs of MDU applications. Netjax Smart Switch is a 24-line device that provides a way for MDU dwellers to choose from alternate service providers, without a truck roll to change wiring closet cross connections. The switch mounts in the MDU’s wiring closet and is connected between the entry points for each provider and the lines to each living unit. Obviously, a cable operator would prefer to win an entire building to its telephony service, but this unit provides a way to gain entry where the building owner may be reluctant to make such a commitment for all its tenants. It also provides a relatively painless way to migrate from one provider to another. Apartment door intercom systems are another MDU application and might be easily overlooked when an MDU unit is converted to VoIP. This application shares some common traits with the special needs an installer addresses with residential security systems. Building intercom systems often share wiring and even telephone sets with phone service. To integrate the intercom system with telephone service, an intercom switch is inserted in the path between the apartment and the incoming telephone line. In a typical operation, when a visitor “buzzes” the living unit, the resident answers using any phone in the living unit. If a phone call is in progress, the intercom system places the call on hold and switches the phone to the intercom path. When VoIP service is installed, many cable companies do not use the existing telephone wiring. Station sets are connected to the embedded MTA (EMTA) rather than to the existing house telephone wiring. For a second phone set, the operator may choose to rewire along a baseboard or suggest a cordless interface. The apartment intercom is therefore "out of the loop" and no longer usable via the sets used for telephony. Sistellia solves the problem with its Netjax Intercom Interface, which the installer connects to the existing house wire, the EMTA and telephone station sets. Like installations of VoIP in homes with alarm systems, installation of the Intercom Interface will require installer training. The installation process requires that the VoIP installer have the ability to identify in-wall wiring paths, disconnect the incoming pair from the rest of the house wiring at the first jack appearance, and replace the existing jack with one that provides separate terminations for the incoming pair and the pair that loops to other jacks in the dwelling unit. Education All of the foregoing just points out that the installer needs to keep learning, just as much as his network engineering counterpart does. Whether you call it training or professional development, ongoing education is a need that will continue to grow with the number of "plays" we service. Justin J. Junkus is president of KnowledgeLink and telephony editor for Communications Technology. Reach him at jjunkus@knowledgelinkinc.com.

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