Kemmerer raised the example of AM and FM radio, and the way in which FM radio came along and promised better quality just as digital broadband has come along, and both led to certain concerns regarding regulation. "There are regulatory issues around being able to use and share the same electronic spectrum. Like so many things it is a fixed resource. Yet we are looking to provide access to more people."
Kemmerer then went on to discuss the current status of the public network's transition from the old telephony switched architecture to an Internet Protocol/Ethernet architecture. He pointed out that the Ethernet transition is one means of carrying IP over public networks and that broadband access penetration in major metropolitan areas as well as suburbs and rural areas is already quite high. "The FCC has been very active recently," he said, "[The agency] has made it a high priority to encourage transition to IP voice communications," adding that Genband has contributed heavily to this effort.
There are 95 million wired telephone lines in the United States, according to Kemmerer. About a third of these phones are IP. Two thirds are still conventional wired phone lines. Of the 12,000 TDM switches out there, only about 10% to 20% have converted to IP, while the remaining 80% to 90% still have to make the transition, he said.
"What you can see from those numbers is that maybe half of those lines will be IP by 2016," Kemmerer went on. "That's tremendous progress but there's still a long way to go before reaching the goal of making the entire infrastructure all IP. The FCC has established aggressive goals to achieve this by the end of the decade."
Unfortunately, much of the current infrastructure is based on 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s technology. The infrastructure from that era consumes a lot of power. He mentioned some of the green intiatives that have been established to replace whole rooms of very old equipment with one vertical or two vertical racks of equipment. "So, in addition to modernizing the network, there is also a tremendous opportunity to improve the green factor of the very significant power and cooling space of our current public infrastructure."
This is no simple task. There remains, in Kemmerer's words, a "massive amount" of work to be done. "There is a public infrastructure it has taken us about a hundred years to build until now," he said. "Trying to modernize it in a decade is a massive challenge."
The current strategy involves carriers modernizing their lines so that their customers have better access to services. This helps to make the American economy and infrastructure more competitive, which are very important goals in this process, according to Kemmerer.
In order to provide the right kinds of incentives for investment, there is a need for regulatory clarity on how this new space is going to work, he said. Given how important regulations are to investment, not understanding what regulations are going to be makes it hard to pull the trigger on certain investments because one does not know if that's going to be the right investment or the wrong one.
"We are expecting to see some sort of post regulations release," Kemmerer said. "There is a complex legal process before that happens. In 2014 we'll see some of those initial steps for some of this regulatory structure and then it will be up to the industry to codify and move there. That is a major step for vendors and enterprise customers as well."
— Zewde Yeraswork, Associate Editor, EE Times