Broadband issues pondered

Broadband issues pondered

A panel of industry dignitaries focused on issues facing the growth of broadband networks during a session here on Wednesday.

Executives from AT&T, Broadcom, PMC-Sierra, JDS Uniphase and Juniper Networks gave their views on broadband at a session entitled "Broadband revolution: Shaping the future of the Internet", sponsored by the Churchill Club, a Silicon Valley-based business and technology forum.

Among the issues raised included the spread of IP (Internet Protocol)-based networking, optical networks, wireless and applications that would spark a public demand for broadband networking access, in the wake of an economic slowdown and a multitude of failures in the dot-com market place. Applications such as MP3 file-sharing, digital cameras, video and "two-way" video will require greater amounts of bandwidth, panelists said.

Broadband networks are transitioning from voice-centric to data-centric applications, and IP will take a central role, said Robert Bailey, chairman, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of chipmaker PMC-Sierra.

"Yes, IP will be the lingua franca of the Internet, but how long will it take?" Bailey asked.

Hossein Eslambolchi, senior vice president of AT&T and interim president of Excite@Home's broadband network, concurred on the importance of IP, and agreed that it will take time to evolve toward the protocol on a wider scale. The core of the broadband network will be IP and optical, Eslambolchi said.

Currently, however, ATM provides better quality of service and reliability than IP, he said. "We don't get that on IP today," Eslambolchi said.

Scott Kriens, chairman, president and CEO of hardware maker Juniper Networks, said IP would provide a common mechanism for exchange of information.

Henry Nicholas III, president and CEO of Broadcom, said, "There's no question networks will evolve to IP."

"The great news is, there are ways to evolve to IP networks," Nicholas said.

Don Schifres, co-chairman and president of the Amplification and Transmission Group at JDS Uniphase, said fibre optics, and the great performance gains and lower costs it will yield, will happen during the next five to 20 years.

"Look, fibre optics and optical networking are just in the stage that [semiconductors were] in the early 1970s," Schifres said.

Over time, broadband users will adapt to many more applications than available today, including video and two-way video, said Schifres.

Optical switches are becoming available for boosting the deployment of optical networking, said Schifres. But at the desktop, "you still have to switch it back to electrical [connections] because PCs are not optical - yet."

AT&T's Eslambolchi said his company would be investing in optics, broadband and wireless, and is looking to integrate voice and data at the edge of the network.

"It's not really the core of the network we're investing in, it's at the edge of the network," he said.

Eslambolchi, commenting on the potential for deploying wireless networking as last-mile connection method, said wireless currently lacks the speed needed for this. But in two to three years, speed will improve dramatically, he said.

Kriens, commenting on the economic slowdown in the technology sector, said "We're going to see fall-outs and we're going to see failures," but, "we're going to see more business in bandwidth and services."

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