Verizon Communications has tapped softswitch maker Telica Inc. to supply equipment for offloading data calls from traditional voice switches.
Neither Telica nor Verizon would state the terms of their contract, but both leave open the possibility that Verizon might later replace its traditional phone switches with Telica softswitches to handle voice phone calls and calls to Internet service provider modems.
"It's something we'll be looking at," said Brad Frison, a senior network planner at Verizon.
Without softswitches, Verizon would have to add more traditional voice switches near ISP points of presence to handle traffic loads. But traditional switches cost ten times more than softswitches, on average.
Using softswitches for voice calls, however, requires more complex software than using them for data calls. Service providers need to make sure that softswitches are stable and reliable enough so customers are unaware of any difference in the quality of calls supported by traditional circuit switches and those supported by softswitches.
Frison said a key factor in deciding to use Telica's Plexus softswitch was that it could integrate with Verizon's operations support system (OSS). Telica's product was recently deemed compliant with OSS standards known as Operations Systems Modifications for the Integration of Network Elements (OSMINE). OSMINE is designed to ensure that equipment complies with current regional Bell operating companies operations software, which has evolved over decades and is too pervasive to swap out.
OSMINE compliance is key to doing business with RBOCs and other established, incumbent carriers, observers noted. It is not as important to competitive local exchange carriers or other alternative carriers who build their networks from scratch and have no legacy gear to accommodate.
Traditionally, RBOCs bought switches from a handful of vendors including Lucent Technologies Inc., Nortel Networks Corp., Siemens AG and AG Communications, whose equipment has evolved along with RBOC networks over the years.
"Now we've broken into that cartel," Telica President and CEO John St. Amand said.
Verizon would not detail its plans for deploying the Telica softswitches, but said they are beyond the testing stage. The gear will be used to gather phone calls that are bound for ISP points of presence and trunk them in on primary rate interface ISDN lines to the ISP modem banks. That way, the PRI lines don't connect directly to and tie up the voice switches.