CenturyLink has completed the first phase of a planned migration of traditional voice traffic to an IP platform. In the first phase, the carrier has moved traffic from seven million voice customers onto an IP backbone network that also carries other IP traffic.

The transition of voice of an IP platform is a move many rural carriers are expected to make as the Federal Communications Commission gears up plans to convert today’s voice-centric Universal Service program to a broadband program with the goal of ceasing support for voice-only networks within 10 years.

CenturyLink’s move also could be the first step in moving toward a network platform that can support the service provider Holy Grail of delivering “any service anywhere”—enabling customers to, for example, begin watching a pay-per-view movie at home and completing the experience on a wireless device in their car.  In the future CenturyLink said its IP network platform could support media transcoding, enabling the company to translate “varied media assets to varied delivery platforms such as digital cinema, broadcast, web or mobile.”

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To support phase one of its voice migration, CenturyLink installed media gateways, policy management and session border controllers from Sonus Networks in 22 U.S. cities. “We expect to achieve cost savings and efficiency gains from our new IP core network as well as from the ability to centrally manage our voice traffic across our fiber backbone,” said CenturyLink Chief Technology Officer Matt Beal in the announcement. “It will also enable us to provide more advanced services to meet our customers’ future needs.”

It would be logical to see similar a similar voice migration strategy adopted in support of Qwest’s 10 million voice customers after CenturyLink completes its Qwest acquisition.

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