Carrier Qwest is looking to expand its presence by investing in network management. CTO Pieter Poll discusses Qwest's strategic plans in this eWEEK interview.
As vice president and chief technology officer at Qwest,
Pieter Poll faces the challenge of moving the carrier with a 14-state footprint
into the competitive fray with much larger rivals such as AT&T and Verizon.
A veteran of AT&T's Bell Labs, where he helped develop
the network evolution plans for the AT&T long-distance network, Poll joined
the former U.S. West Advanced Technologies organization in 1994 to develop
switching and network intelligence evolution plans. After a brief stint at Mahi
Networks, Poll rejoined Qwest in 2004. eWEEK Senior Writer Roy Mark recently
talked with Poll about Qwest's strategic plans.
Comcast has taken a
public and media beating over its handling of peer-to-peer traffic. Is Qwest
facing the same sort of P2P problems in network management?
I think all broadband providers are facing problems in terms
of handling the growth. It's not an immediate problem, but it's really more of
a trend. You look at Internet traffic on our network, and it typically doubles
every 15 months. On a per-user basis, each individual user will generate 40
percent more uploads and downloads per year compared with the previous year at
essentially the same revenue number.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we
have to bring down the cost of transporting IP 40 percent year over year, or
it's like you are in a room and the water level is slowly going up. You only
have a finite amount of time.
That said, Qwest would disagree with Comcast that you would
address any one specific traffic type. At Qwest, we look at the total 1 percent
or so of DSL subscribers that are driving
about 20 percent of the total traffic on the network. AT&T's CTO
[John Donovan] made a claim a few weeks ago with a number that is almost
exactly the same.
It just shows you that it is a typical behavior around the
industry. I would expect Comcast's numbers run about the same.
We fundamentally believe we have the right to manage our
network, but we do not believe the way to do that is to pick on any one
application. If you look at the top users, P2P is a component of that, but you
look at people using Web cams on a 24/7 basis or generating Internet multiple
radio feeds [and see they] also generate a significant amount of transfer.
To give you a comparison point, the medium usage of Qwest
broadband [subscribers] is about 1.5 gigs of transfer per month. Toward the
extreme end, we have a customer that is hitting at a terabyte. That shows you
the range of what you've got.
So how are you
dealing with this growth in network traffic?
There are two things that I'll point out. First of all,
Qwest fundamentally believes that those that are toward the higher end [of
broadband consumption] are very much showing us how the Internet is going to
go. We are not about going in and punishing that customer segment.
What we're doing is investing in growth in our network, and
we're doing what we can to make that growth very cost effective. We have an
acceptable use policy which states that Qwest reserves the right to manage our
network, and by "manage our network" I would say, toward the very top 1
percent, we may choose to take some action. I want to stress this: We are not
currently going in and restricting traffic or restricting certain traffic types
on our network.
Do you currently have
any pricing plans such as usage caps?
We do not have any plans at this point. As I said, we
fundamentally-and I think this is in line with what the FCC [Federal
Communications Commission] is feeling about broadband networks-reserve our
right to manage the network. I think if you look at the growth, it's clear all
carriers will have to perform greater levels of management in the future.