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NGN is Not the Internet, and Never Will

I see and hear a lot of confusion about next generation networks (NGN). In most cases people are using the term roughly as the ITU-T defines it:

A Next Generation Network (NGN) is a packet-based network able to provide services including Telecommunication Services and able to make use of multiple broadband, QoS-enabled transport technologies and in which service-related functions are independent from underlying transport-related technologies.

but many people don’t realize how little this has to do with the Internet.

The Internet is a “network of networks” that includes millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks interconnected using IP. It is a hierarchy because there is a backbone of ~28,000 autonomous systems (ASs) which exchange IP packets using routes established by Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). The remaining millions of networks connect to that backbone via hundreds of thousands of ISPs and other intermediaries who are ASs or connect to an AS.

All of the NGN proposals (Wikipedia has a good summary) involve sophisticated QoS. But it is well established that there is no technical or commercial requirement for QoS on the Internet backbone (references discussed here and here).

The thousands of organizations that are ASs exist in hundreds of different jurisdictions. While some ASs are heavily controlled by governments (there is basically one AS for all of China), AS interconnection is independent of any single government. Interconnections occur based on tradeoffs between the cost of doing business locally and the cost of routes to other locations.

Indeed, to the extent Tier 1 ISPs have attempted to limit free peering, Tier 2 ISPs have established peering agreements that form a donut around the Tier 1s, thus cutting Tier 2s’ transit costs to an absolute minimum. So the effectively unregulated Internet backbone is working remarkably well based on commercial arrangements between thousands of parties, just as it has for 15+ years.

With no technical need for QoS on backbone routes (as discussed here) and no commercial reason that anyone has articulated, it’s hard to see how the thousands of parties who make up the core of the Internet would agree to do anything with QoS, ever.

Established telephone companies will deploy NGNs for telephone service. To the extent they have a monopoly on Internet access, they will be able to use their NGNs to block access to the Internet, but the existence of NGNs won’t change the way the Internet core works or the way anyone else’s network works.

So NGN’s are an evolution path for existing telephony networks, not the Internet, and they will last as long as the existing telephone service model lasts and no longer.

By Brough Turner, Founder & CTO at netBlazr

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