ARCHIVED -  Telecom Order CRTC 98-40

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Telecom Order

Ottawa, 26 January 1998
Telecom Order CRTC 98-40
Pursuant to the Commission's letter of 16 September 1997 requesting comments regarding, among other matters, disputes related to standards and Common Channel Signalling # 7 (CCS7), the Commission received, on 30 September 1997, a joint submission from ACC TelEnterprises Inc., AT&T Canada Long Distance Services Company, Canadian Cable Television Association, Clearnet Communications Inc., fONOROLA Inc., MetroNet Communications Group Inc., Microcell Telecommunications Inc., Rogers Network Services, Sprint Canada Inc., TelcoPlus Services Inc., and Vidéotron Télécom ltée (collectively, the competitors). The Commission also received comments from Stentor Resource Centre Inc. (Stentor) on behalf of BC TEL, Bell Canada, The Island Telephone Company Limited, Maritime Tel & Tel Limited, MTS NetCom Inc., The New Brunswick Telephone Company, Limited, NewTel Communications Inc., and TELUS Communications Inc. Stentor and the competitors filed reply comments on 7 October 1997.
File No.: 96-2376
1. In their comments, parties generally agreed on a number of matters regarding the appropriate forum and technical references for the selection and maintenance of a comprehensive set of interconnection standards or specifications to be used in interconnected Canadian networks. More specifically, there was general consensus that standards for interconnection of Canadian networks (the common interface standards) should be developed and approved by a recognized standards writing organization (SWO) such as the Canadian Standards Association's Steering Committee on Telecommunications (CSA/SCOT), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) or, where no appropriate standards are available, Generic Requirements (GRs) of Bell Corporation Research (Bellcore) could be used. Parties also generally agreed that it would be appropriate for the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee (CISC) or a similar body to select the common interface standards. There was also consensus that network providers should be permitted to select the specifications used within their networks.
2. Parties did not agree on the criteria to be used to determine when and how the industry should migrate from one version of a technical standard or specification to another. The competitors considered that the evolution of standards should be the responsibility of CSA/SCOT and that implementation should be as soon as possible after adoption by both a SWO and the CISC. The competitors stated that each network should be required to adhere to the adopted standard at a single point of interconnection with other networks no later than one year after adoption of the standard, and at all points of interconnection within two years.
3. While Stentor agreed that SWOs should develop standards, it considered that adherence to standards should only be required at the points of interconnection. Stentor was also of the view that adoption of a standard at the interface should be based on criteria such as demand, cost benefit analyses, network impact and backward compatibility.
4. Parties agreed that it was neither appropriate nor desirable to set criteria for migration to new standards within a particular network. Network carriers should be free to plan their own migration. As far as Stentor was concerned, since new standards are generally backward compatible, it was not necessary to move to a new standard to ensure that interworking of networks is not adversely affected. The competitors stated that carriers should set their own migration strategies as long as their choice did not affect other carriers' traffic carried over their network.
5. Furthermore, parties agreed that adherence to specifications would be demonstrated through standardized test suites.
6. With regard to the Commission's request for comments concerning the definition of the minimum CCS7 message set, the competitors were of the view that the minimum message set required to be exchanged should be those described in GR-246. The competitors considered that the use of GR-246 would allow them to implement future services and differentiate themselves from Stentor member companies without discussions with other carriers. GR-246 would also guarantee that transited messages were transported without alteration which, the competitors stressed, is very important.
7. Stentor did not agree that GR-246 should be made part of the minimum set because not all manufacturers support the full set. Stentor considered it sufficient that the minimum message set guarantee successful end-to-end interworking for services that providers of interconnected networks agree to provide. In Stentor's view, the messages required to be exchanged should include those required for base capabilities (call control, caller ID and call forwarding services), multi-laterally supported services and mandated interworking (e.g., local number portability (LNP) messages).
8. The competitors considered that GR-317 should be adopted as the appropriate standard for local interconnection. The competitors stated that GR-317 supported new parameters, such as, among others, charge number parameter and generic address parameter. They also stated that protocol conversion was not feasible because the TR version did not support these parameters. The competitors requested that the Commission direct Stentor member companies to activate the GR-317 software within six months when the software was in the switch and allow the Stentor member companies one year for the acquisition and implementation of software where available, and two years where the software is not available.
9. Stentor noted that TR-317 can provide the functionality required for local competition, including LNP. Stentor stated that TR-317 is used for interconnection with independents, American interexchange carriers and Canadian wireless service providers without loss of interoperability. Furthermore, Stentor stated that GR-317 was backward compatible with TR-317. Stentor stated that network providers should not be required to provide new features and that backward compatibility of standards was sufficient.
10. Finally, while the competitors considered that the carrier who has to develop protocol converters should bear the responsibility for the cost of the interface, Stentor stated that the costs should be borne by the service provider that benefits from the interface.
11. The Commission agrees with the general consensus reached by the parties that SWOs are the appropriate bodies for the development and maintenance of a comprehensive set of interconnection standards and specifications to be used in interconnected Canadian networks, described above.
12. The Commission is of the view that a carrier should be free to implement the standards and specifications of its choice within its network. To require otherwise could be costly and inefficient to some carriers, while possibly decreasing opportunities for product differentiation.
13. However, the standards implemented at the network interface must be compatible with the selected common interface standards. Carriers must be able to accept all legitimate messages conforming with the selected common interface standard(s) and complete the calls.
14. With regard to ensuring that networks are adhering to standards, the Commission agrees with the parties that conformance testing should be required.
15. The Commission further agrees with the competitors that transited messages should be handled according to means set out in the common interface standard, unless it can be shown that the transiting messages will impair any functions of the transiting network.
16. The competitors stated that backward compatibility at the interfaces was insufficient. They considered that implementation of common standards should be mandatory with timing set by the industry. The Commission is of the view that reliance on backward compatibility is appropriate in that it provides sufficient assurance that network interoperation will not be adversely impacted. In other words, a carrier will not be required to implement the common interface standard at the interface providing that the standard it uses at the interface is backward compatible with the common interface standard. In those cases where features provided by newer versions of a standard are greatly desirable because of their enhanced services or network efficiency, the Commission is of the view that network providers will likely agree to move to the new version. In the absence of an agreement among parties, regulatory action may be initiated.
17. While the competitors submitted that the minimum standard set should be those described in GR-246, the Commission notes that the set of messages described in GR-246 goes beyond the minimum set required for basic calling. The Commission considers that Stentor's approach more realistically defines the minimum set required at the outset of competition. The Commission recognizes that additional messages and parameters may be required in the longer term. However, the set as defined by Stentor is presently adequate for the exchange of traffic.
18. The Commission also finds that Stentor member companies should not be ordered to implement the GR-317 specification. In the Commission's view, the TR-317 set of specifications is adequate for basic services. The Commission notes, however, that some Stentor member companies use a derivation of TR-317 (TR-317+) to provide calling name and that others use alternative protocols. The Commission considers that Stentor member companies that exchange the calling name parameter would be conferring an undue preference on themselves if the parameter is not delivered to other carriers. Therefore, the Commission is of the view that Stentor member companies must take appropriate action to have the calling name parameter delivered to interconnecting networks in a form compatible with the common interface standard.
19. The Commission further notes that, although it is not requiring the implementation of approved standards within networks at this time, the use of a non-standard protocol or superseded version of a standard that impairs interoperation of networks may not, in the future, be considered appropriate.
20. Finally, the Commission considers that where protocol conversion is required at a point of interconnection, the company that has to adapt to the common interface standard should be responsible for the costs. The Commission therefore finds that Stentor member companies must bear the costs of providing the calling name parameter to competitors at the point of interconnection in a format compatible with the GR-317 specification.
21. In light of the foregoing, the Commission orders that:
a) SWOs are the appropriate bodies for the development and maintenance of standards to be used for the interconnection of networks. CSA/SCOT will be the prime source of standards used. If CSA/SCOT has not developed and maintained standards, ANSI, ITU standards and Bellcore Generic Requirements (GRs) will be acceptable;
b) the CISC is the appropriate body to provide the Commission with recommendations regarding the standards that should be adhered to for network interconnection and interoperation;
c) individual carriers be allowed to determine which standards and versions to implement within their networks and the timing of implementation;
d) adherence to specifications be demonstrated by conformance testing;
e) the minimum message set required at this time will consist of messages necessary for: Basic SS7 Call Control, Calling Line Identification Presentation and Restriction Services, and Call Forwarding Services; and support of LEC (local exchange carrier) multi-laterally supported services and mandated internetworking such as LNP;
f) when a parameter in a message that has not been defined in the minimum message set is received at an interface, the receiving or transiting carrier will deal with the message in compliance with the specifications provided in the common interface standard, unless it can be shown that it will impair the operation of the carrier network;
g) the interface provided by a carrier shall be compatible with GR-317; and
h) where protocol conversion is required, the carrier required to bring its protocol to the approved common interface standard will be responsible for the costs.
Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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