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Reach Out and Touch Someone

By Alan Sears | Aug 21, 2011 | Business, Insights

TBL made its first inter-company Cisco TelePresence call this past week. After provisioning a new MPLS circuit from Masergy, we gained access to the British Telecom node of the Global Video Exchange (GVE). Our inaugural call was to who else but our local Cisco office, and of course, the call was every bit as perfect as the ones we make to our other unit down the hall. Masergy has a great product with their variable rate DS3 offering, which allows end customers to adjust the amount of bandwidth they have provisioned (and thus are charged for) through a web portal. Need a little more bandwidth over the next 24 hours for that video conference or big backup? No problem.

But what really struck me about the TelePresence call is that I was communicating from my office to one of another company’s over a public network that wasn’t the Internet. Most of us are familiar with reaching out and touching someone over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), but today most IP communications are forced to travel over the Internet to make it from company to another. And while the Internet has been the great equalizer in connecting the planet, it carries all kinds of traffic with equal treatment – which can be detrimental to real time media like video. But there I was, face to face with my friends in the Cisco office in all their 1080p-high-definition-100%-life-size-spacial-wideband-audio glory, and our packets were traveling over a purpose-built, packetized IP, quality of service enabled, public network specifically for connecting companies with Cisco TelePresence units. And all I did was dial a phone number  – talk about reaching out and touching someone. And then it hit me: I am going to witness the death of the PSTN in my lifetime.

Sorry Alexander Graham Bell – it’s been a great run, but 135+ years after asking Mr. Watson to come there, voice alone over a copper circuit just isn’t good enough anymore. Yes, the public network of circuit-switched copper wires that connect us all together and provide that comforting and all too familiar hum of dial tone will go silent one day. Most of us are communicating over IP networks for voice and video today already, as are most businesses intra-company. But we are all dependent on the PSTN to reliably connect us together externally… until now. Cisco, AT&T, British Telecom, and Tata have connected themselves together to form the Global Video Exchange (GVE), and offer this packet IP network to clients who wish to communicate together – much like the PSTN of old. Consider the GVE the new PPTN (Public Packetized TelePresence Network), and the harbinger of a new global, public network for inter-entity rich media communications. If Ma Bell could only see us now!

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