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Flicker-free across the Internet

There can be no doubt about it: Our data highways are getting crowded. In addition to e-mails, images and music files, the Internet is increasingly being called upon to transport phone calls and video movies.

"Triple play" is the magic word: the parallel transmission of information, voice and video images in real time. At present, though, network operators are finding it hard to cope with the rising data stream. Customers with a DSL connection expect high-speed delivery of data at all times despite the growing volume of information – but there is no guarantee that they will get it. At peak traffic times, the data stream slows down and data may even be lost on the way. This type of failure severely impairs Internet telephony, as the words get chopped up and are inclined to echo. When videos are played back in real time, a time delay causes the picture to jerk. It is therefore essential to have a guaranteed data transmission rate for future multimedia applications.

Scientists from the Munich-based Fraunhofer Institute for Communication Systems ESK and the University of Paderborn are among the participants in a collaborative project with Infineon Technologies dubbed "NGN PlaNetS", which has been set up to investigate the use of Ethernet on the Internet. This technology has been established in private and corporate networks for a long time – and it is cheaper than expanding network capacity, too. "Ethernet has the advantage of being used already in more than 95 percent of home and company networks. That makes it easier to combine it with the Internet," explains ESK scientist Dietmar Tölle. The researchers have meanwhile demonstrated in a laboratory that Ethernet is indeed able to handle triple-play services.

The Ethernet solution enables data streams to be delivered without difficulty at the same time as videos and telephone calls. The system is flexible enough to bypass overloaded sections of the data path via alternative routes. The ESK has developed procedures for monitoring all current data streams and re-routing them where there is a risk of congestion. The industrial partners in the NGN-PlaNetS project are testing these procedures in prototypes for the next generation of Internet.

Monika Weiner | alfa
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