The core fabric should serve both—urban centres flush with high-speed links and rural sites still clinging to dial-ups.
Organisations today are no longer confined to a particular territory and have sites spread across various geographies. These multiple locations need to be connected to the regional offices, and in turn to the head office, for access to enterprise data on a real-time basis.
Governments’ connectivity needs are no different; it’s just that the scales are much bigger and architecture used is more complex. Consequently, the investments involved are also sizable.
In fact, the government vertical has been one of the key growth segments for the network connectivity market in India for the last few years. Even during the recession, government was among the few verticals that served as a saviour of the connectivity market.
The national and state e-Governance projects are expected to result in significant investments in network connectivity. Accordingto IDC India, the government vertical is expected to register a CAGR of 16.5 percent for the period of 2009-14.
Every department’s top IT agenda is to have a robust connectivity between its branches to streamline better communications, increase efficiency in the processes, reduce interference and improve overall image of the department. Officials acknowledge that the technology is helping them to increase revenue collections and to improve government-citizen services.
Various connectivity options exist today and based on the application area or the requirement, a specific technology may be preferred over another one.
Leased line: With variable bandwidth speeds, leased lines have come a long way. With leased lines, organisations can have guaranteed bandwidth needed for voice, data and video applications. Traditionally, leased lines have been favoured for real-time data re-routing as they remain one of the best options for data transfer between various locations without any packet loss.
Leased lines are available in several bandwidth options from 64k to STM speeds. They provide private and secure connectivity between two or more locations in both enterprise and government networks, making them an ideal solution for connections that are time and content sensitive.
Whether a customer needs to transmit voice, data or video, leased lines provide a guaranteed bandwidth option for higher throughput and lower latency over a carrier network. Leased lines provide connectivity and data transfer between the locations without any packet loss or jitter for error-free transmissions. Organisations can also use leased lines to send multiple types of traffic over the same circuit.
IPLC: International Private Leased Circuit (IPLC) remains a popular option as the IPLC provide the requisite bandwidths for the bandwidth intensive applications. IPLC also makes for seamless integration of data, voice and imaging services. Organisations can use IPLC for a wide array of services including telemedicine and video conferencing. However, IPLC has major drawbacks in situations where traffic engineering and performance characteristics for different classes of traffic are required. Factors like delay and jitter can also affect an IPLC connection that can cause major drops in quality of service (QoS) levels.
MPLS has an edge over IPLC on this front since it provides network administrators the ability to set the path, traffic will take through the network, and set performance characteristics for a class of traffic.
In India, prices of IPLC are dropping as competition is being encouraged. At present, only international long distance operators (ILDOs) are allowed to sell IPLC services in India and resellers have not been permitted as the focus has been on the creation of infrastructure.
VSAT: Availability of other methods of connectivity such as leased lines at lower costs and with quicker set-up time have had an adverse impact on VSAT as a popular means of connectivity. VSAT usage seems to be on the wane, and organisations are moving to other technologies. Nevertheless, the VSAT market offers considerable opportunities for both equipment vendors and satellite service providers. Growth of the VSAT market is also likely to be driven by the increasing deployments of rural telecommunications, telemedicine and distance education programs. VSATs are good to be used for applications that have low TCP handshakes and light applications such as ATMs, POS, and lottery terminals.
Use of technology to stay abreast of increasing competition by enterprises in the BFSI segment has also led to more VSAT business. For example, though the cost of a debit card swipe at an ATM is around ` 6-7 per swipe, banks are still providing ATM services through VSAT.
Another usage potential is in oil companies which have to collect data from petrol pumps for quality monitoring purposes. Petrol pumps in remote areas can be connected through VSAT. Regions of Jammu & Kashmir, most of the Northeast, island territories like Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshwadeep, and Daman & Diu can benefit from VSAT-based connectivity.
VSAT proves to be cost effective where population density is low. Instead of setting up base stations, telecom service providers use VSAT to support networks in that area. The VSAT technology is extensively being used in the government’s CSC scheme, under which people in rural areas will have access to various government services like land records and bill payments at kiosks connected via VSAT. RBI has asked banks to increase banking across the country, and is encouraging them to use VSAT to connect their branches.
MPLS: Companies today increasingly resort to Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), a technology that allows service providers to virtualise their IP network infrastructure so that they can offer services to multiple parties using the same equipment. It is a forwarding and switching architecture with important advantages for advanced services that are IP-based as well as traffic engineering capabilities. These new capabilities enable service providers to provide on-the-fly services to their customers for a lower cost due to the flexibility and economy of scale. MPLS networks bring various users of these applications on a single unified platform. MPLS is the latest step in the evolution of routing and forwarding technology for the core of the Internet. It delivers a solution that seamlessly integrates the control of IP routing with the simplicity of Layer 2 switching.
In the recent past, many large organisations have either switched over to MPLS-based WANs or intend to do so soon. Most businesses make the move to take advantage of different classes of services to ensure appropriate application performance. According to a Frost & Sullivan report, the MPLS-based WAN market in the last financial year was close to ` 1,400 crore and is growing at around 40 percent year-on-year. It is the fastest growing data connectivity service today.
MPLS is important to organisations that need to ensure the performance of low-latency applications such as VoIP and other businesscritical functions. It is widely supported in India by all the service providers.
For governments, the way forward is to make use of multiple connectivity technologies. Apart from the technologies discussed above, cellular connectivity is also an area that cannot be overlooked.
Connectivity will foster and open environment that will enable new services and applications. This will mobilize an increasing number of services to be delivered online. Usability and simplicity will improve, which will benefit citizens not only in urban pockets but in rural areas as well.