A common trend in the manufacturing and carrier arena is consolidation . The consolidation of manufacturers is one reason for the dramatic reduction in the number of players in this space.

The call-control plane is an extremely important piece of the new PSTN network infrastructure model, as it must gracefully coexist with both the connection plane and the service (application) layers. Many vendors are building MGC technology.

In fact, the authors are working with approximately 15 vendors to ensure compatibility from the connection plane into the call-control and service/application plane.

Many vendors will continue to be in the call-control plane, as service providers will more than likely use several vendors for this key technology, depending upon what service they decide to deploy. The onus on the Call Agent vendors will be to ensure compatibility from one Call Agent to another. Call Agent interoperability is one of the components that could keep service providers from using large-scale, packet-based voice networks.

The service or application plane is where the innovation in the network will happen. One major issue affecting the service plane is its reliance upon soft-switch vendors to open APIs that are useful enough to develop services. For this reason, you will see many application vendors attempting to develop Call Agent technology until APIs into the top Call Agent vendors are fully open and service-friendly.

The service plane is where thousands of ISVs will converge to develop new and revenue-enhancing applications. This is comparable to the client/server revolution in which Microsoft removed the barriers of having to code video drivers, and so on, and enabled ISVs to concentrate on applications. This same revolution is happening in the PSTN today and will change the way services and telephony/multimedia networks are designed, built, and deployed.

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