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20/20 foresight for telecomm affairs in 1993.

December 31, 1992 is approaching as we sit here at our keyboard and monitor. Much happened in 1992 in the U.S. and globally...and 1993 promises much excitement. Get out your crystal balls!

Life is not likely to be quite the same after 12/31/92 for both Europe and the United States. It's amazing how a year ago many of us were buzzing about the impact of "Europe 1992," and yet today most of us have all but forgotten the important changes about to take place. Despite the turmoil among European Community nations during the latter half of 1992, particularly when it came to approval of the Maastricht Treaty, it is likely the fundamental restrictions in trade will lift, more or less on schedule.

For the U.S. telecomm industry, a unified approach to trading with EC member nations will certainly make life easier for doing business. For the bureaucrats in Washington, it means job security for at least another two to three years. That's about how long it takes for the rest of us to translate the bureaucratic nonsense those folks create whenever anything new appears.

More importantly, removal of trade barriers to Europe will probably help the U.S. economy somewhat, while greatly simplifying matters across EC member borders. For example, a piece of equipment that passes an approval process in the U.K. will be deemed acceptable in other EC member nations without additional testing or certification.

During 1992 certain issues gathered considerable momentum. One was long-distance toll fraud. Although the problem is not a new one, the fact that AT&T and other major carriers began strenuously defending their demands for long-distance abuse is now a major issue. Dozens of companies lost billions in toll abuse during 1992; FCC's reaction to the issue was a non-reaction. In effect, carriers can still litigate to recover losses. However, as a Band-aid to gain favorable press, carriers began offering special packages to customers to limit liability in toll abuse situations--in reality, just another way to fatten their coffers at the customers' expense.

Another phenomenon was local area networking (LANs). 1992 was the closet we've seen to a true Year of the LAN. Corporate America's appetite for LANs shows no sign of declining. Concurrent with the growth of LANs is the growth of LAN security.

We've moved closer to broadband networks--whatever they really are. Frame relay emerged and developed rapidly, though few people actually are using it. As frame relay was reaching a crescendo, along comes ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) which portends even greater network capabilities than frame relay.

We also saw increased deployment of Sonet facilities in carrier networks. While not in widespread use among users, it will gather momentum in 1993.

We saw the first real movement in PCS (personal communications services). Numerous trials were run. FCC went so far as to specify bandwidth (1850-1950 MHz) for PCS. However, hundreds of private microwave users were angry, as they will eventually be forced to relocate to a different frequency range. Unfortunately, traditional cellular had another banner year, ending 1992 with over 10 million subscribers. This means PCS has a tough road ahead unless the technology is priced cheaply (not likely) and current cellular users can be induced to change (also unlikely).

Expect increased deployment of digital cellular technology, although the difference in overall speech quality will be virtually unchanged.

Wireless communications, other than PCS/cellular got a big boost. SpectraLink and Omnipoint introduced wireless PBX systems. The end user marketplace showed some interest, but the incremental price for wireless technology is still too high to attract significant interest. Wireless LANs probably will fare better.

Competition in the local loop finally got a boost from FCC. While the U.K. supports far more competition in the local loop than the U.S., we still are making progress.

We saw some serious disasters during 1992: the Chicago flood and Hurricane Andrew. In each case, damage was severe and each area's telecomm infrastructure was disrupted. As users became more concerned about network service disruptions, FCC responded by creating a Network Reliability Council. NRC serves as a forum for discussion of network service quality and the IXCs and telcos are certainly paying more attention to the issue.

However, lip service does not guarantee uninterrupted service. The mission of carrier tariffs is "universal" service, not "uninterrupted" service. Remember that when you are visited by a telco or IXC representative.

Interoperability will continue to be the key word for 1993. It is no longer enough to establish a communications path between two networks or terminals. Both entities must truly interoperate.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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