Empire Telephone: Transitioning to IP

Last week, IP systems developer Pannaway Technologies announced that New York’s Empire Telephone Corp. had deployed Pannaway’s Service Convergence Network (SCN) system in conjunction with Nortel‘s DMS-10 switch, enabling the telco to roll out SIP-based services to its 8,400 residential and business subscribers.

Pannaway president Mark Carpenter says the aim of the SCN is to “deliver an IP converged access network in a way that enables mass-market deployment of voice over IP as a primary line service, and at the same time enables IPTV, high speed Internet, and all of the new IP-based services”—and to do all of that in a system that’s seamlessly interoperable with Nortel’s widely installed DMS-10 platform.

The SCN, Carpenter says, allows a telco to deploy a VoIP line that performs with the same reliability as a traditional phone line. “When power goes out at your home, everything works seamlessly,” he says. “You get immediate dial tone back, you can still make all the same phone calls you did—your phone numbers, the call features, everything is the same.”

According to Carpenter, the system focuses on two key factors. The first is the coordination of the subscriber profile and support information between the remote terminal and the subscriber’s home. “So when the power goes out and things fail over, everything is as it was,” he says. “It’s just that now, the dial tone’s coming from a remote terminal.”

The second key focus is on enabling true E-911 service, which is supported by the integration with the Nortel switch. “There’s a whole series of things that you have to do to be compliant to the E-911 call handling spec,” Carpenter says. “It’s not just getting the call routed to the right emergency call handler—it’s how you manage that call once the call has been connected.”

Pannaway’s system, Carpenter says, also keeps the IPTV video signal from being corrupted when a VoIP call is picked up. “When our competition deploys, they’ve got to set their DSL lines with signal-to-noise ratios expecting that there’s going to be noise on the line based on ‘ring trip’—when you pick up your handset, there’s a high-energy pulse that goes down the copper line,” he says.

Because the SCN doesn’t require that higher signal-to-noise ratio, it allows DSL lines to be deployed over greater distances than they otherwise could be. “If I can shrink my signal-to-noise ratio because I don’t have to worry about ring trip, now all of a sudden my DSL line can go farther out to my customer,” says Joseph Gottwald, CO Engineer and ISP Manager at Empire Telephone.

Gottwald says Empire Telephone plans to offer a wide range of IPTV services, including video on demand, pay per view, music channels, and even local content like nearby high school football and basketball games. “Say a customer’s son made a great play—they can just go online and find that particular day and that game, and download it and watch it at their house whenever they want,” he says.

And advanced call features will be a key offering as well. “We plan to start offering some different applications on the phone line as far as unified messaging, voicemail-to-email conversion, dialing from your Microsoft Outlook on your PC,” Gottwald says. “If the customer wants those features, we can put them on a SIP line and offer that to them.”

For Empire, the deployment is happening quickly: Gottwald says the SIP lines will be put in over the next few weeks. “We’ll be starting with about 350 to 400 customers, and within the next few months, we’ll be rolling in closer to 600, 700 customers,” he says. “By September, we hope to have the IPTV to roll out. At that point, we’ll be able to offer IPTV and SIP to any customers that decide to take our DSL, IPTV, or SIP.”

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