Faster, cheaper new Net on the horizon

The next generation internet, commonly called NGI, will be faster, less expensive to use and better able to accommodate more high-speed access options. But for NGI's benefits to be realised, vendors will have to agree to let products interoperate and establish standards, a networking executive said yesterday.

"I do truly believe that the internet of the future will eliminate congestion," said Mike Vent, president of network services and information at Austin, Texas-based IXC Communications, a network provider specialising in private line, fast packet, internet and long-distance services. Vent gave the keynote speech at the MultiMediaCom trade show here, which included the NGI Forum.

One way to please users will be to offer more bandwidth for less money and Vent confidently predicted that day will arrive in the not-so-distant future.

"This might sound a little strong coming from a carrier, but the new internet will include astronomical amounts of bandwidth in a new pricing scheme," Vent said.

Prices already have dropped and will continue to do so, including for high-speed technologies. Network companies like IXC, which is being merged with Cincinnati Bell, are quickly building the infrastructure for the internet of the future.

Security is the top concern among users and, consequently, also among network vendors, Vent said. Users also want interoperability across multiple networks and vendors, and to make use of multimedia.

The NGI could be well in place within nine months to 18 months as high-speed access options are more widely offered, Vent said.

If users are frustrated by interoperability and standards issues, executives like Vent apparently feel those woes even more sharply. Companies are making promises about products they'll have out soon, but then they aren't delivering the goods on time, Vent said.

"If you invest in the vendor and he doesn't keep up with what you're doing, you lose," he said.

Conversely, when companies do come through they can virtually guarantee they'll earn customer loyalty. The same holds true for network carriers that are offering DSL (digital subscriber line) and other high-speed internet access options -- if the carriers follow through with able customer service and if they keep steadily improving their technologies, he said.

Participants at the NGI Forum yesterday said that the NGI will also need network management using policies that probably will be set by carriers to establish which internet users have bandwidth priority.

Policy-based networks are viewed by some as a key to managing the NGI and making certain that bandwidth is prioritised. Such policies to manage the internet are not likely to pervade networks, but will be used only where it makes sense, said Ashley Stephenson, CEO of Xedia Corp, which makes access routers for WANs (wide area networks).

Network managers will decide which customers are allocated the most bandwidth, so, for instance, major corporate users are likely to be given top priority when network traffic comes from them.

Contracts are likely to include guarantees of a certain level of bandwidth during times when networks have to deal with a lot of traffic from multiple corporations or users.

"Everyone would get their fair share" of bandwidth, Stephenson said.

While there obviously are a lot of questions about how policy-based networks will operate and how fair they will be, Stephenson and others conveyed yesterday that the NGI will be built and equipped to handle more, but faster, traffic.

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