TDM to IPThe idea of transitioning today’s telecommunications infrastructure to the Internet protocol gained further traction yesterday with an announcement from the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and the SIP Forum that they would work together to specify a network-to-network interface for IP networks.

“As standardized IP-based interconnection becomes the norm, it brings with it opportunities to eliminate unnecessary costs and enable advanced services,” said ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller in a press release.

While some network operators connect with one another using session initiation protocol (SIP) today, each agreement must be negotiated and engineered on a case-by-case basis, leading to duplication of effort, the organizations noted in the press release.  “The overall effect is to significantly increase the operational and capital cost of SIP/IP-based interconnection,” the release stated.

The organizations also noted that there is no commonly-agreed methodology on how to translate phone numbers into IP.

Members of ATIS or the SIP Forum are eligible to participate on a joint task force that has set itself several goals including:

  • Evaluating the current state of SIP-IP interconnection
  • Identifying areas where problems typically occur
  • Providing a detailed protocol-level specification to address these issues that will include an agreed-upon mechanism for negotiating extensions to the protocol

“The SIP Forum and ATIS are committed to a multi-stakeholder, consensus-driven process among our members to achieve ubiquitous interoperability of these systems,” said SIP Forum Chairman Richard Shockey in the release. “The goal is better, faster and less expensive network operation and new service creation.”

Several network operators, including AT&T, have been pushing for a TDM-to-IP transition as a means of reducing costs. And the FCC has said it will release plans for a TDM-to-IP transition trial at its January meeting, now scheduled for January 30.

Carrier interconnection is likely to be one of the most challenging elements of the TDM-to-IP transition – not just from a technology standpoint but also from a business standpoint. Verizon already has expressed reluctance to make terms of its IP interconnection agreements public. And small rural carriers are concerned about losing the per-minute access charges associated with traditional interconnection, and which they rely on to help cover the higher costs of delivering telecom services in sparsely populated areas.

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