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Will standard interfaces be enough to turn the tide for ISDN implementation?

Nationwide ISDN in 1992?

It's asking a lot, but a big hurdle is being cleared with implementation of standard customer premises equipment interfaces.

A development eagerly awaited by followers of ISDN may be putting some of the last pieces into the puzzle. Basically, it would establish the standard interfaces which will allow "fairly complete, full end-to-end compatibility," in the words of one RBOC ISDN expert.

With the success of the 2B1Q transmission code and the other milestones that ISDN has passed, albeit slowly, this implementation should bring enough standardization to CPE that it will result in quantity production and consequently lower prices.

It will be fun to watch this scenario unfold, and to see if this latest nudge will push ISDN off the dead center where it seems to have settled.

For too long, a Catch-22 situation has held ISDN back. Operating companies haven't hustled to put in the "infrastructure" for ISDN because they didn't see sufficient demand.

Demand lagged, naturally, because the infrastructure wasn't in place. Why would a user buy CPE for a technology that hasn't taken off? In turn, makers couldn't produce that CPE in sufficient quantities to bring the prices down because the demand wasn't there. Why? Because the infrastructure wasn't in place.

It has been a situation made for inertia.

At the Communication Networks show, one user's presentation captured the potential and the frustration that has characterized ISDN.

Patricia Graham of Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh told how her company has done videoconferencing via ISDN for nearly a year. Graham shared what she has learned in that time.

"This is the first application's we've found that has hard-dollar benefits for ISDN," she said. "The biggest savings have been in crisis management and travel."

Mellon compresses video to 112 kb/s for transmission over two B channels. A Fujitsu terminal adapter strips 8 kb/s off the ISDN and puts the out-of-band signaling back in-band.

The bank has a backbone T1 network it has used for videoconferencing, but ISDN gives access to lots of smaller locations, to which a T1 extension didn't make sense. Mellon uses the ISDN videoconferencing in four sites.

"The primary driver for us was that you could roll a portable video unit into anyone's office," said Graham. "You don't need a dedicated room.

"Also, users hate the thought of flying to Philadelphia for a two-hour meeting and wasting their whole day."

Asked how Mellon Bank made the videoconferencing pay, Graham explained that users committed to a certain number of hours of usage each month. They get billed for that usage whether they take advantage of it or not, so that has encouraged them to use it.

It is clear that Graham feels the frustration of ISDN.

"I have been a proponent for the last two years, and seen it remain largely unavailable to me. I rag on the BOCs whenever possible.

"I can have as many ISDN lines as I want, as long as it's not over 200. That's what Bell of Pennsylvania tells me. That puts a real damper on your enthusiasm for this kind of architecture.

"ISDN can bring a lot of benefit to the table, but you have to weigh their negatives, and the biggest negative is availability."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:538
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