Limited global telecomms test finds no Y2K problems

A limited year 2000 interoperability test of international gateways used by global and local exchange telecommunications carriers involved in routing calls from one country to another found no problems related to the date rollover.

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) conducted the 465 test calls, including international direct dialling, international switched voice-band data and the government emergency telecommunications service, using five date rollovers, including December 31 of this year to January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2000 to January 1, 2001. The test calls were done in laboratories, though ATIS officials said that the association attempted to recreate what happens in a live environment.

The main participants were CANTV in Venezuela, Telecom Italia and Telkom South Africa; local-exchange carriers GTE and WinStar Communications; and international gateway provider MCI WorldCom. The US General Services Administration also participated as a government end user.

"Of the 465 test calls, no call failures occurred as the result of the five date and time transitions," according to an ATIS executive summary of the report. Officials from ATIS and participating carriers said yesterday that the only problems detected during the tests involved routing unrelated to the date rollovers.

The year 2000 problem is occurring because most older software programs were written with two-digit date fields, which could lead computers to interpret the "00" in 2000 as "1900" and fail to make correct calculations.

Concerns about international interoperability among telecommunications carriers led ATIS, an industry association, to set up a network testing committee to conduct a series of tests. Yesterday's results covered the third test by ATIS. Calls were conducted on August 30 and September 1 and included voice and fax communications.

While the larger US-based carriers are viewed as having a low risk of year-2000-related problems, Telkom South Africa is seen as being at high risk for problems, and Telecom Italia and CANTV have been tagged as medium- to high-risk, according to Nancy Pierce of ATIS. Including carriers that have higher risk was an important aspect to the test, she said.

The test used switches from a range of companies including Lucent Technologies, Siemens AG, Alcatel SA and LM Ericsson Telephone Co.

A disclaimer included with the ATIS executive summary notes that the testing was limited and conducted in a laboratory environment. "This report is not intended to be and should not be relied upon as a statement of the year-2000 readiness of the public-switched telephone network or of any particular equipment or component comprising the public-switched telephone network."

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