Networking: Convergence comes to China

January 2, 2006

A number of converged network communications projects are expected to move forward in China this year -- with wired and wireless elements -- spanning from Shanghai to Beijing, experts tell United Press International's Networking.

One of the biggest networking projects is China's landmark west-east gas pipeline project (WEPP), which has selected an IP-based converged networking solution from Nortel to power voice and multimedia communications, both wired and wireless, along its 4,200-kilometer route. Operated by PetroChina Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.

The pipeline is the longest in China -- and one of the longest in the world -- stretching over nine provinces to transport natural gas from the Lunnan gas fields of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region all the way to Shanghai and other regions of the Yangtze River Delta.

"This is a highly strategic project for China," said Stephen Tsui, chief operating officer, greater China for Nortel. "This contract is a significant milestone for Nortel in China representing the first deployment of our converged networking solution by the country's gas industry."

Technology developments are also empowering other Internet service providers in China to expand their offerings. A report by Beijing-based Analysys International, an information services provider, said that the emergence of IP multimedia subsystem, or IMS, technology, will enable China's ISPs to segment their markets more effectively than in the past. The firm's report indicates that the "most attractive point" of IMS is its capability to package various services together. China's IMS market will "grow rapidly" with the introduction of 3G telecom networks, the report said.

"Investments on gateway equipment for interconnection with current networks will grow at a super-high speed after 2009," said Cui Xiaolong, an analyst with Analysis International. "And the convergence of wireless services and fixed-line services make substantial progress."

The network from Nortel seems to be one of the more interesting convergence projects to date. The network, already partially in place, will be extended to 57 out of 200 sites along the west-east pipeline's route by early this year.

When complete, the project will be one of the largest IP softswitch-based -- e.g. software-based -- networks Nortel has deployed to date in China.

The network will deliver seamless, real-time voice communications to office personnel and mobile workers at lower costs than traditional fixed-line telephony. What is more, the IP solution also enables multimedia and collaborative applications.

The company said these applications include virtual interactive meetings with file exchange, Web based collaboration and other advanced capabilities, based on a virtual private network (VPN) solution.

At the project's Shanghai control center, there is an array of equipment, including a Nortel Communication Server (CS) 1000, an IP PBX providing applications and more than 450 telephony features, and the Multimedia Communication Server (MCS) 5100 to augment existing voice and data infrastructures and increase productivity by enabling multimedia collaboration, worker mobility and development of personalized applications, the company said.

What's more, Nortel's CallPilot unified messaging technology has also been deployed, as well as Nortel's VPN router for remote access to voice mail, fax and e-mail services, and to make calls via the internal converged network, the company said.

In addition to the Shanghai control center solution, remote sites are being provided with advanced capabilities such as IP telephony, messaging, IP networking, Internet access and contact center capabilities with skills-based routing, the company said.

Other global companies are eyeing China's converged telecom market too. On Dec. 23, Siemens signed the purchase agreement with Harbour Networks to pay $110 million for the Beijing-based company's technologies and patents for three series of high-end broadband products, as well as more than 100 engineers, the company said.

These advanced networks and technologies, however, are not without controversy in China, where some human rights activists claim that western-developed telecom technology is used to spy on native Chinese.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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