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  1. Going Wireless with 5G Means Going Deeper into Wholesale Wireline Fiber Solutions

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    Wholesale network operators are a mainstay of the American telecommunications landscape, serving a host of other carriers and service providers, including mobile operators. The idea, then, of last mile networks and wholesale mobile backhaul is nothing new. What is new, however, is the surging volume of consumer and enterprise data that is being facilitated by new cellular technologies like 5G. In effect, 5G will completely reshape the telecommunications landscape, putting pressure on existing network infrastructure and providing new business opportunities for wholesale operators. In this blog, we examine how this will happen and the role fiber-based network services can play in helping the wholesale community adjust.

    The Effect of 5G on Legacy Networks

    As you are likely already aware, 5G promises significant upgrades in terms of data speeds, bandwidth and low latency connections. Compared to current wireless standards like 4G, 5G is arguably a necessity for bringing the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) into its golden era. As the telecommunications industry begins to witness the roll out of preliminary 5G networks, it is worth understanding that the shift to ubiquitous, worldwide 5G coverage is really a two-step process.

    The first step in the transition to 5G is achieving what is known as non-standalone coverage. This is basically a response to the realization that, although 4G networks have come a long way being supported by fiber-based backhaul, 5G will require a never-before-seen level of densification of existing networks. This is, of course, due to the higher frequencies that 5G networks use. Compared to the lower frequencies of 4G and its predecessors, these higher ones travel much shorter distances. As a result, in order to avoid signal dissipation and poor service quality, carriers and other operators will have to place cell-sites and antennas much closer together.

    Whether we are talking about macro sites, small cells or remote relays, one thing is clear here – the future of 5G depends on fiber-based network solutions. While backhaul immediately comes to mind, the opportunities for wholesale carriers are quite diverse and extensive. After all, every part of the network that connects to the 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) will need up be upgraded to support the surge in traffic that will result from greater 5G rollouts in the coming years.

    The Role of Wholesale Fiber Optic Network Solutions in Enabling 5G

    As RCR Wireless recently wrote about a Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) convention here in the Eastern US, “5G was all the rage, but…talk of fiber optics was noticeably lacking.” This trend needs to shift because, although RAN and core are important, “none of that works without the fiber.” The bottom line is that 5G architectures will not only require densification but will also demand a greater selection of fiber-based assets to support a variety of use cases including fronthaul, backhaul, network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN).

    Fiber is critical in enabling 5G and not just for capacity reasons. In order to meet the availability and coverage goals of 5G deployments, operators working with everything from Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to Fiber-to-the-X (FTTx) will need to transform their access networks. As Light Reading has implied, 5G is more than just a technology. It is a shift to a whole new way of deploying network infrastructures.

    Wholesale carriers thus face a clear opportunity. Instead of concentrating just on traditional backhaul between a remote tower and a centralized headend, now wholesale operators can offer fronthaul to a multitude of small-cell sites. These include installations like light posts, for example. Also, as existing carriers and cable companies turn to decentralized software-controlled distributed access architectures (DAA), the wholesale community can also benefit from offering Ethernet services and SDN capabilities. This can help solve capital expenditure issues for carriers and service providers who might find investing in dark fiber uneconomical. From fronthaul to backhaul and transport, the role of fiber in supporting 5G is critical.

    In short, wholesale operators and fiber providers like DQE Communications are going to be critical pillars of support for 5G in the US. As Ciena notes, “it’s rather ironic that the projected performance goals of 5G wireless will depend on the availability of wireline fiber.” Here at DQE, whether you’re looking for backhaul, CRAN or small cell solutions, we know what it takes to build a reliable network to grow with the demands of the wireless industry. Contact us to learn more about our available services, including Metro Ethernet, Wavelength Services, Dark Fiber and SD-WAN.

  2. SD-WAN and MPLS – Better, Together

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    SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is a fast growing network architecture that allows organizations to gain control of their network by providing the ability to connect remote locations across multiple sites, cloud services or offsite data centers. This solution continues to grow, with no sign of slowing down. According to Silver Peak, 90% of surveyed companies expect to implement SD-WAN within the next twelve months.

    SD-WAN addresses challenges of MPLS such as network visibility and resiliency. In the marketplace, SD-WAN has been sold as the ultimate solution to business’s network needs. However, the introduction of SD-WAN does not negate the value of MPLS. In fact, MPLS and SD-WAN compliment each other and work best, together.

    The rise of SD-WAN is largely because of the increased use of cloud applications. SD-WAN provides a flexible and scalable way for organizations with geographically dispersed locations to handle their network traffic. This allows users to save time and money while controlling traffic. SD-WAN is able to provide faster service provisioning, the business agility to adjust to market dynamics, and the ability to dynamically tailor to specific application needs. Overall, SD-WAN will increase application performance, which will lead to enhanced business productivity at a lower cost for IT.

    Meanwhile, MPLS offers reliable delivery of packets and provides a high quality of service. This is a big advantage for organizations that rely on real-time protocols. MPLS is able to use big and powerful connections to connect large data centers together.

    MPLS can impact costs as the need for bandwidth increases. According to the IDC, Enterprise organizations are expected to increase their bandwidth needs by double every 3 years. Flexibility and cost control will be important to organizations as bandwidth needs increase, and using MPLS alone could result in increased bandwidth costs.

    Both SD-WAN and MPLS have complementary advantages to them. SD-WAN is able to use existing infrastructure and augment with provided services. It works together with MPLS technology and addresses some of the limitations of MPLS. SD-WAN is an overlay technology defined by software, while MPLS sits underneath to provide transport services.

    You do not have to choose between SD-WAN or MPLS. In fact, utilizing both will provide a complementary network architecture to support your business today, and in the future.

  3. IP Addresses: Your Questions Answered

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    If you have ever worked with an internet service provider, you have probably heard the term “IP Address” before. Even so, it is very easy not to give the term much thought. But, what if I told you without IP addresses, we would live in a world without internet, phone, or any communication between devices?

    Through answering a series of questions, this article should help to demystify the IP Address as well as well as explain its current role in the technology industry.

    What is an IP Address?

    An IP (internet protocol) address is a code that acts like a postal address for the internet. Since the internet connects all the devices in the world to create a network, it needs addresses to pinpoint where information has been sent, and where it is to be received. Every device that connects to the internet has an IP address that allows it to communicate with other connected devices.

    There are two types of IP Addresses: Static and Dynamic

    Static IP addresses, like the name suggests, do not change when connected to your network. They are more stable than dynamic IP addresses, allow for more accurate geolocation, and are better suited for hosting dedicated services like VPN or company email. They are also good for hosting and creating internet servers because they provide an identity that can be catalogued. Businesses are the most common users of these addresses.

    It is also important to mention that static IP addresses are treated as a premium product. They typically come with a fee, and some internet service providers will only sell them to business class services.

    On the other hand, Dynamic IP addresses change. With a dynamic IP address, a device secures an available address for an amount of time– leading to greater IP address efficiency for the internet service provider. These addresses are automatic and do not require any effort for the user, however geolocation is less accurate. This type of address is the best option for casual internet usage and is common among residential and consumer offerings.

    What is the difference between IPv4 versus IPv6?

    IPv4 addresses are the original IP configuration developed in the 1980’s that consists of four numbers from 0-255 followed by decimals such as: 92.156.201.25 . They are 32 bits in size and have about 4.3 billion possible combinations.

    IPv6 addresses were created in 1998 after engineers realized that 4.3 billion combinations might not be enough. (Who knew the internet would be so popular?) These addresses are 128 bits in size and include eight groups of four letters (A through F) and numbers separated by colons. An example of an IPv6 address would be as follows: 8bbd:1200:6545:2875:a900:f8cd:fe67:68ef . There are about 340 trillion trillion trillion (340 x 10^36) combinations of IPv6 addresses, making IPv4’s 4.3 billion look tiny.

    Why is there a push for organizations to deploy IPv6 addresses?

    As shown above, there are only a set amount of IP addresses, and far less IPv4 addresses than IPv6 addresses. The bottom line is that almost all of the IPv4 addresses have been secured from internet registries like ARIN. Without any more IP addresses to distribute, the internet would cease to grow and be limited to 4.3 billion addresses. However, since brilliant engineers foresaw this issue in 1998, there are ample IPv6 addresses available to keep our internet growing.

    Also, IPv6 migration is encouraged to help “futureproof” your technology because IPv6 addresses can be read more easily by existing IPv4 addresses than vice versa. IPv4 technology requires a translator in order to understand IPv6 addresses. This makes deploying IPv6 a greater priority for international organizations to ensure a reliable connection between customers and clients in all areas of the world. Another benefit of IPv6 is that the addresses are highly available, and therefore qualified users can secure them easily and in large quantities.

    What are the concerns with IPv6 Deployment?

    The main concern companies have with IPv6 addresses is their compatibility with current equipment. If IPv6 is not compatible, it could create a need for equipment replacement–leading to high costs. In addition, since IPv6 is viewed as a newer technology, it can cause a degree of discomfort and uncertainty among potential adopters who are unfamiliar with its complexity, and unsure of the security threats it might pose.

    What is the current state of IPv6 Deployment?

    According to the Internet Society’s 2017 IPv6 Deployment Report, “IPv6 deployment is increasing around the world, with over 9 million domain names and 23% of all networks advertising IPv6 connectivity.” This report goes on to explain that we are moving into the “Early Adopter” phase of the diffusion of innovations, and deployment shall continue to be adopted globally. Regional internet registries continue to promote the adoption of these addresses and raise awareness of the current IPv4 supply situation.

    Green and Blue diffusion of innovations

    IPv6 deployment is currently entering the early adopter phase of the diffusion of innovations.

    For more information, you can visit internet society.org to view the June 6, 2017 state of IPv6 Deployment document.

    In Closing,

    Even as many companies are led to adopt the IPv6 address technology, we will still have IPv4 addresses in use. Moving forward, merging these two formats together will allow our internet to continue to grow by connecting more and more devices. It is amazing how fast our internet has grown, and it will certainly continue thanks to the engineers who thought ahead and developed the IPv6 address.

     DQE Communications does offer IPv6 addresses to its interested customers. Contact Us if you are interested in any of DQE Communications’ network solutions.

    This article was written by Kristen Franks with contributions from Jason Basham, Sales Engineer.

  4. Mobility — The Great Wireless Migration

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    The business world is becoming more wireless – this phenomenon is often called enterprise mobility, where employees are working out of the office using mobile devices and cloud services. But the great wireless migration also means that businesses must adapt to the fact that their customers are using mobile phones much more than desktops to access websites, read email, and buy things online.

    Telecommuting

    People are now working from home more often than ever, and the impact is undeniable. According to GlobalWorkPlaceAnalytics.com, 50% of the workforce holds a job compatible with telecommuting, and 20 to 25% of workers regularly take advantage of that option. The number of regular telecommuters has grown 103% since 2005, not counting those who are self-employed (self-employed people are more likely to work from home – in fact, 22% of the self-employed work from home all the time). Today, 3.7 million employees, almost 3% of the workforce, now work from home at least half the time.

    Employees may be interested in working from home for a myriad of reasons – some of the most common include avoiding the time and expense of commuting, or achieving a better home-life balance, by for example trading off childcare duties with a spouse by working different hours. Flexible hours mean a worker can run errands or schedule appointments without having to take a personal day.

    It’s pretty easy to imagine the many ways telecommuting benefits employees, but employers benefit as well. Employers can save on workspace, sure. It’s also easier to adjust the scale of your workforce by using telecommuters, which can be a major advantage in some industries. But the real benefit is being able to employ highly qualified people who are unwilling to relocate for a job — and improved employee satisfaction and retention.

    Productivity can be enhanced, too. For example, employees who have a minor illness, such as a cold, often choose to work if they can telecommute, because they can get their job done without infecting their co-workers. Further, employing telecommuters means at least some portion of your operations can continue normally in case of a weather emergency, such as a heavy snow, or other disaster. The cost savings can be significant. As an illustration of this, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the entire 5-year cost of implementing telecommuting throughout government is $30 million – while a single snow day costs $100 million.

    What’s more, there’s a significant benefit to society as a whole. Reduction in car traffic reduces pressure on overcrowded highways and reduces emissions of greenhouse gases. In fact, it’s been estimated that if everyone who was interested and had a compatible job worked from home just half the time, the national savings would be $700 billion per year.

    Data security in telecommuting

    For any business that employs telecommuters, data security is an important issue to consider. For starters, workers will be using devices that are not physically located at the company’s offices, and mobile devices are easily lost or stolen. Enterprise mobility management is a set of systems that helps secure corporate data on mobile devices. These can include password protection and remote wipe technology, in which a device’s memory can be cleared from a lost device. But managing security issues can be significantly more challenging if employees are working with their own devices, as sometimes happens with smaller companies especially.

    In addition to securing devices, the data itself must be secured. Enterprise mobility also refers to data being mobile – so, for example, a worker could access the same digital presentation on her desktop, laptop, and mobile phone, perhaps through cloud computing. Sensitive information that is transferred over the internet should be encrypted. Enterprise mobility management often includes VPNs, or virtual private networks, which provide security and privacy to employees accessing and sending data remotely.

    If telecommuting is part of your company’s current or future plans, be sure your technology is aligned with that goal.

    Mobile meeting technologies

    The evolution of live video streaming technology has been incredibly rapid and has changed business profoundly. Simply put, you no longer have to be in the same room to have a face-to-face meeting.

    Video calls can be useful for communicating one-on-one with a worker, conducting a remote job interview, and so on. Video conferences take that idea a step further, and enable full-scale presentations and meetings — they can include shared screens, chat via text, file exchanges, digital whiteboards and more. A variety of different kinds of meetings are possible, ranging from lecture-style meetings in which only one person is speaking, or forums where different attendees can speak. Collaboration on documents or diagrams can be enabled.

    Videoconferencing can be an excellent option to meet with clients or co-workers when travel is time-consuming, difficult, or expensive. Virtual meetings can be less desirable in some situations, such as if the meeting is sensitive and the meeting participants don’t know each other, or if reading body language is important.

    A wide range of videoconferencing services are available, ranging from free and relatively unsophisticated services to more robust paid solutions. PC Magazine has identified some of the most popular and versatile services as ClickMeeting and Cisco WebEx Meeting Center. Many such services have a free trial period.

    Implications of mobile phones in the wireless revolution

    Almost everyone has a mobile phone connected to the internet available anytime, anywhere, and is reachable via phone or text anytime. This has revolutionized the way people live — and the way they do business. Some 80% of internet users own a smartphone, and they are spending increasing amounts of time online using their phones.

    Mobile web use has grown 400% in the past decade, and web design has had to change accordingly. The term “responsive website” means that the website responds automatically to the device accessing it – so the site will look and work great on the tablets and smartphones available now (as well as new devices not invented yet), regardless of screen size. If your website is not responsive, you’re missing customers, even if you’re a business-to-business operation and expect that most people browsing your site are doing so from a desktop. Google Analytics tracks what types of devices are used to access your site – if you haven’t looked at that figure lately, you might be surprised.

    We’ve all had the experience of accessing a website that isn’t optimized from mobile on a smartphone and giving up in frustration. According to Google, 61% of customers are unlikely to return to a site if they had trouble accessing it on mobile – instead, 40% go straight to a competitor.

    Mobile e-commerce is catching up as well — 40% of all online purchases in 2015 were made from a mobile device, but this is expected to grow to 70% by this year. If you sell online, your website must be responsive.

    Email newsletters are somewhat behind websites in becoming optimized for mobile, because it is technically more complicated to design email newsletters that render well on small screen sizes. But people read email on their smartphones at an increasing rate. Some 70% of consumers delete emails that don’t look good on a mobile device. It’s predicted that by 2018, eight in 10 email users will access email exclusively from mobile devices. Thus, it’s increasingly important that your e-newsletter is responsive, too.

    How DQE can help

    DQE Communications can help your organization adapt to the great wireless revolution with customized, reliable network solutions dedicated to your business needs. With guaranteed symmetrical upload and download speeds, you can be sure your business offices stay connected, giving your organization the ever-changing flexibility and bandwidth scalability it demands. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

  5. Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Agents and Things

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    One of the hottest trends in technology is autonomous agents and things. That nebulous-sounding term is actually quite precise – it’s a technology that takes advanced machine learning a step further, so that it can make complex decisions on its own, or autonomously. This is beyond simple automation, where something happens automatically according to hard-and-fast rules. Instead, autonomous agents and things make reasoned decisions based on multiple factors about the current situation – they choose actions designed to meet a certain goal without the involvement of people.

    Examples include technologies like self-driving cars, advanced robotics, certain computer programs (including some viruses), or even something like a smart thermostat that senses when people are home and when they’re not, as well as other environmental changes, and adjusts accordingly – as opposed to one that is merely automated, running on a pre-programmed schedule.

    This is an emerging technology, but we can see its evolution in technology most of us encounter every day. For example, virtual assistants like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) and Now (Google) began as little more than voice recognition search functions, but are now much more sophisticated. In fact, in 2016 Apple announced that it is allowing third-party apps to access Siri, so that users will be able to ask Siri to accomplish tasks such as sending payment or searching images. Eventually the user experience of a smartphone will likely have an autonomous agent as the entire user interface, rather than a screen full of buttons for different applications.

    Autonomous agents and things builds on the Internet of Things, in which devices are connected to the internet so that actionable data can be gathered. But the deluge of data provided by the IoT is becoming so overwhelming that it’s too much for humans to process. That’s where autonomous agents and things comes in — in the autonomous world, many technologies are interconnected and share data, and then act on it without the involvement of people. In fact, we’re now starting to refer to the Internet of Autonomous Things, or IoAT.

    Challenges with the technology

    We’re not close to the point where an autonomous agent could take over the world, as has been depicted in numerous sci-fi movies (2001: A Space Odyssey, or Her). But there are some significant, albeit more pedestrian, challenges to be addressed.

    Data security on the devices themselves is a significant problem, in that data can be easily recovered from decommissioned items such as smartphones – and people upgrade their phones at an extraordinarily rapid rate. And all kinds of IoT devices with capacity for storing and transmitting data are discarded frequently as well.

    But virtual data security is an even more significant issue. As we’ve seen, the IoT is vulnerable to hacks and security breaches. Currently, the most pervasive problem is that devices are inadequately protected by passwords, leaving them open to be recruited into giant, impersonal botnets used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. But as we move toward the Internet of Automated Things, where decisions are being made based on data collected by these devices, the potential implications of such hacks – either to the devices themselves, or the cloud where the data is stored – could become more directed, and even more serious.

    Furthermore, security issues – perceived as well as actual – might impact the growth of the technology in that they could cause people to distrust automated systems and things. We’ve already seen this effect with the IoT. It will be important for designers of automated consumer goods to learn from the mistakes of the IoT and effectively address security issues early in the technology’s evolution.

    Another potential issue for automated consumer goods is that people might find them too complicated to use. If, for example, consumers pay extra to buy cutting-edge automated thermostats but get frustrated trying to program them, they’ll give up on those advanced features and just use the manual settings – and might think twice before choosing an automated product again. To avoid this, designers will need to pay special attention to the user experience as they roll out new products.

    In the longer-term, liability will become more of an issue as systems become more and more autonomous – in other words, who will be held responsible if the system makes a decision that has harmful consequences? The manufacturer, or the owner of the system? It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which an autonomous system makes a decision that truly couldn’t be foreseen, especially as systems become more sophisticated. The regulatory framework will need to evolve along with the technology.

    Current applications of autonomous agents and things

    Computer programs are among the most well-developed applications of autonomous technology right now. For example, sophisticated supply chain management programs are capable of evaluating and reacting to needs such as ordering supplies, scheduling workers and so on without human involvement – going beyond simple automation.

    Driverless technologies are already utilized in cars – for example, cars that can park themselves into tight spaces, or automatically brake when they get too close to another car or object. Evolution of truly driverless cars isn’t far behind — in fact, experts think this is possible by 2021. Ford, Nissan, Google, BMW, General Motors, and Daimler are just a few of the big names working toward this goal. Data security is of particular importance with this potential application, as the implications of hacking could be dangerous or life-threatening.

    The world of autonomous agents and things is ever-changing. Keep up with your business’s advancing bandwidth demands with DQE’s secure fiber optic network services, where scalability is unlimited and customization is key.

  6. The 2017 Outlook for DQE

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    Q: With data communications and networking needs only continuing to grow for businesses small and large, what is the outlook for DQE Communications in 2017?

    A: In 2017, we’re going to focus on three areas:

    1. DQE will continue to build the expansion of our fiber footprint, according to customer demand, by opening up edge-out markets.
    2. DQE will be launching new service offerings in response to increasing business demands, as well as continue to fully customize each and every network solution for our customers.
    3. DQE will continue to operate with safety as a top priority to our employees, their families and our customers.

    DQE is committed to making businesses succeed, and we’ll continue to do so by making their data communications top notch.

    Jim Morozzi, President & CEO of DQE Communications

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