Telco coalition aims to bridge PSTN, Internet

A group of incumbent and competitive telecommunications companies has formed a coalition to give input to international bodies on protocols and standards.

The official formation of the Packet Multimedia Carrier Coalition was announced this week, but representatives of the 14 member companies have been meeting for several months.

The coalition's top priority is to push establishment of protocols that bridge the circuit-based, public switched telephone network (PSTN) and Internet protocol (IP) networks, said David Powers, director of corporate marketing at Level 3 Communications, which got the group started.

"Historically, we (at Level 3) have felt that the standards process was pushed by the vendor community," he said. "We didn't feel the carriers had a voice."

While it's not necessarily a bad thing for vendors to be involved in those processes, Powers said, the sense among carriers has been that vendors help develop protocols and standards which then have to be dealt with daily by the carriers, whose input might have been lacking. It also was decided that the telcos could be more effective if they spoke in a single voice regarding standards and protocols.

The coalition intends to develop protocol sets that could bridge PSTN with IP technology networks. One protocol set outlined in a statement yesterday from the coalition would state traffic exchange requirements between PSTN and IP networks for performance, reliability and interoperability. Protocol developed by the group will be forwarded to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), charged with formally adopting standards and protocols.

The coalition has been meeting every couple of months with member carriers hosting the sessions. There is no membership fee to join the coalition and Powers said that current members are hopeful other telcos will participate.

Besides Level 3, current coalition members are Frontier Communications Corp., GTE Corp., ICG Telecom Group, Illuminet, IXC Communications, Nextlink Communications, NTT America, SBC Technology Resources, TESS LLC, Time Warner Telecom and Williams Cos.

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