TIA Blog


Chairman Wheeler Deserves Great Credit for Leadership on the IP Transition

FCC Chairman Wheeler and the Commission deserve great credit for addressing head-on the challenges associated with the "IP Transition," the inevitable transition of legacy transmission platforms and technologies to Internet Protocol. Facilitating this transition in a socially responsible manner is one of the most significant steps the Commission can take to affirmatively help promote broadband deployment and infrastructure investment while serving the public interest.

Even before he became Chairman of the FCC in November 2013, as Chairman of the Commission's Technological Advisory Council or TAC Wheeler assumed a leadership role on this issue. In September 2011, Wheeler led TAC's Critical Legacy Transition Working Group released an especially important report "Sun-Setting the PSTN" highlighting a number of the questions associated with the transition to all-IP networks.

Within his first days as Chairman he focused attention on the issue in a blog post The IP Transition: Starting Now. In describing the need to preserve the "Network Compact," he cited the remarks of Commissioner Rosenworcel that "[a]s we develop a new policy framework for IP networks, we must keep in mind the four enduring values that have always informed communications law — public safety, universal access, competition, and consumer protection."

TIA concurs with these sentiments. IP networks have the capacity to efficiently add dramatic new functionality to communications. No longer limited to networks constructed to transmit just voice, IP allows more data to be added, making communications richer.

Our communications networks are changing – and fast. What some call the "IP transition" is really a series of transitions; a multi-faceted revolution that advances as the packets of Internet Protocol (IP)-based communication replaces the digital stream of bits and analog frequency waves. The impacts on networks have already begun and will be profound. Fiber networks are expanding. Bonding technology is showing interesting possibilities with regard to the nation's traditional copper infrastructure. Communications protocols are moving from circuit-switched Time-division Multiplexing (or TDM) to IP. And wireless voice and data services are increasingly prevalent, empowering consumers to connect at the place and time of their choosing.

TIA's annual research confirms that a comprehensive review of the transition to IP networks is timely as consumers and businesses increasingly choose to replace legacy services with IP alternatives. Specifically, each year TIA's Market Review & Forecast publication analyzes a wide range of data, weighing economic, technology and policy drivers, with specific data on industry segments, including wireless data, wireline data, conferencing services, wired internet access, network equipment and more. This data confirms the speed with which the network transition is taking place and underscores the benefits associated with enabling the network transition.

We estimate that in the voice services market, circuit-switched spending fell 5.7 percent in 2012, comparable to the 5.8 percent drop in 2011. That decline offset the 10.3 percent rise in VoIP, which grew less than half as fast as the 22.7 percent rise in 2011. In the data services market, fixed broadband increased 5.0 percent, its largest gain since 2008, augmented by the jump in IPTV. In the network infrastructure market, each component posted comparable gains, with access infrastructure growing 5.9 percent, central office infrastructure increasing 5.2 percent and backbone infrastructure rising 5.1 percent.

TIA expects the overall landline market to continue to expand at low single-digit rates during the next four years as moderating declines in voice services are offset by moderating gains in each of the other components. In the voice services market, we expect smaller decreases in circuit-switched spending, as most households and businesses likely to drop their circuit-switched lines have already done so. The impact of cancellation of second lines when households switched from dial-up to broadband and when children switched from landline to wireless has run its course. Meanwhile, we expect VoIP growth to drop to single digit levels as that market begins to mature.

The FCC deserves great credit for appropriately working to identify potential challenges with the transition. By addressing them in advance, the Commission will be able to assure to continuation of the "enduring values" of communication policy.