Supercomm: Securing service provider networks is a matter of national security

Top executives of major telecom equipment makers say beefing up security and reliability on service provider networks is necessary to protect customers and is a matter of national security.

Top executives of major telecom equipment makers say beefing up security and reliability on service provider networks is necessary to protect customers and is a matter of national security.

"Wait until we see a shutdown of the telecom network...then we'll understand what a virus or intruder on your network can do," Bill Owens, president and CEO of Nortel told Supercomm 2005 attendees during a keynote panel today. "We need to get into the security of these networks for the security of our countries."

Public networks must be reliable and secure so first-responder calls go through, video meetings between patients and doctors remain private and public networks are protected from cyberterrorists, Lucent Chairman and CEO Pat Russo says. "With innovation comes responsibility. We need to ensure that next-generation services are exciting and are reliable and secure," Russo says.

Ownes says the key to the public IP networks now being built is they must be made as reliable as traditional phone networks, Owens says.

Russo notes that much of the current public networks in the U.S. were built by AT&T in conjunction with government, she says, but since telecom reform many more providers and equipment makers have entered the mix. "There are many more vendors and service providers involved now, and that makes it more difficult to address security in a coordinated fashion," she says.

She also calls for a federated ID standard that makes sure people and machines are who they say they are before being granted network access.

In addition to security, networks will be essential to global economic competition, says Owens. The U.S. lacks and needs a plan for getting consumers to embrace broadband access to the Internet and other services, he says. He credits the success of Korean firms Hyundai and Kia with that country's acceptance of broadband technology. "I don't see policies or direction that will take us forward," he says.

Meanwhile, other panelists say new IP service networks must support the rapid development of new services that will be driven by younger customers. Providers need to figure out the best way to provide services to what Tellabs President and CEO Krish Prabhu calls echo boomers, the children of baby boomers. "This is the first generation growing up with cell phones in their pockets," he says, and they will be a demanding group.

This will call for broadband access to services, he says. Fiber to or near the home, where customers will require about 50M bit/sec bandwidth to support video, Internet access, gaming and telephony is essential, Prabhu says. Fiber within 500 feet of a home is close enough to support broadband services over copper the rest of the way, but fiber to the node that is 4,000 to 8,000 feet away is to far to support high enough bandwidth, he says. Converged broadband services will create shared resources that will improve education, healthcare and national security, Russo says.

Development of new services will be aided by the IP multimedia subsystem, a standard of how to design provider networks to be efficient and flexible, Siemens President and CEO Lothar Pauly says.

Pauly says everyone seems to have their own definition of convergence, but he wants it to include bringing new applications to networks quickly. That includes a unified IP network underlying wired and wireless services that include voice, videoconferencing, instant messaging, push to talk and enhanced caller ID.

Wireless networks need to support and integrate any type of wireless access, Pauly says. "I don't see one dominant wireless technology." 

Ethernet will become an important technology in provider networks, he predicts, because it's flexible, optimized for packet traffic and has been engineered to recover from network failures via rerouting in 50 millisec.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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