TDM to IPCenturyLink has asked the FCC to allow it to conduct a TDM-to-IP transition trial in Las Vegas that would focus on VoIP interconnection and on the replacement of TDM-based business services with IP-based alternatives. The company has lined up two VoIP providers – Bandwidth and Inteliquent – for the traffic exchange trial. The proposed trial would last six months and would involve approximately 12 wire centers.

In a filing with the FCC yesterday, CenturyLink noted that it has been developing plans to gradually transition to IP-based infrastructure, replacing its traditional TDM network that “every day becomes increasingly underutilized and obsolete” – a reference to the cord cutting trend that has impacted traditional telcos large and small.

“As this transition progresses and CenturyLink reaches a critical mass of VoIP customers in a geographic area, it will make sense to begin exchanging traffic with other providers through VoIP connectivity, rather than existing TDM interconnection arrangements,” CenturyLink said. The company noted that it already has VoIP customers in the proposed trial area but to date has not agreed to VoIP traffic exchange with any providers with respect to local voice traffic. Both Bandwidth and Inteliquent have VoIP traffic.

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CenturyLink TDM-to-IP Transition Trial
CenturyLink noted that various ideas have been put forth about where network operators should exchange VoIP traffic – from just a few interconnection points nationwide to a much denser approach that would put an interconnection point in each LATA. The company advocates having an interconnection point in each state – an approach it said “provides the best balance of efficiency and redundancy.”

Before beginning the trial, however, CenturyLink is asking the FCC for a declaratory ruling exempting the company from being required to offer SIP interconnection with other network operators beyond its limited plans for the trial. It’s not surprising to see CenturyLink asking for such assurances, as resolving how network operators will exchange VoIP traffic is likely to be one of the most difficult aspects of the TDM-to-IP transition.

With regard to the other portion of the trial, CenturyLink said business customers would be recruited on a voluntary basis to transition from TDM-based services such as business lines and Centrex to SIP trunk and hosted VoIP services, respectively, and to report back on their experiences.

AT&T’s Trial Proposal
AT&T also has proposed TDM-to-IP transition trials – one in a rural area of Alabama and the other in a metro area in Florida. But the company specifically said it did not intend to test IP-to-IP interconnection in those trials. Competitive carriers represented by Comptel have criticized that aspect of AT&T’s plan. AT&T’s plan did, however, call for business customers to transition from TDM- to IP-based services on a voluntary basis.

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