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  (Source: PC Magazine)
Competing companies decide to collaborate on network issues

An unprecedented agreement announced Wednesday will see competitors Comcast and Vonage working together to develop Comcast’s vaunted “network agnostic” management techniques and improve customer service.

Both companies sell local- and long-distance telephone service. Comcast, through its nationwide infrastructure originally laid out for cable TV and internet, competes with Vonage, which sells VOIP service that works over other carriers’ internet backbone.

The agreement primarily consists of an increased level of communication between both companies’ support networks, so that problems on one end, like traffic bottlenecks or line issues, can be quickly resolved on the other.

“This [agreement] is primarily directed towards the principles around how Comcast is going to manage traffic on their network in a way which isn't going to adversely impact Vonage customers' use of the Comcast network,” said Vonage CTO Louis Mamakos in an interview with BetaNews.

Collaboration between the two companies greatly lessens one of Vonage’s biggest bottlenecks: a lack of control over the infrastructure that its service runs on. Vonage relies on minute-by-minute quality of service tracking, and like most VOIP companies there is little it can do to resolve network issues. This agreement gives the company some much-needed leverage, allowing it to do things like call in support through a direct line between the companies’ customer centers.

“By having this relationship with one of the broadband ISPs, when I give them a call and say, 'Hi, this is Vonage, we think we're seeing something weird,' I'm not just some crank calling them on the phone. We have this working relationship,” said Mamakos.

While one might consider such a collaboration agreement to be one-sided, Mamakos says that it grants his team the ability to see metrics necessary to better handle its own network. If a traffic peering point is backed up, for example, Vonage can quickly buy additional bandwidth somewhere else, allowing its software to quickly route around the problem.

Vonage will also assist Comcast in developing its “network agnostic” management techniques, which the company announced earlier this year in response to the “traffic discrimination” scandal it fell into last year. The company previously announced plans to draw up a “P2P Bill of Rights” with P2P content-delivery firm Pando Networks.

“As a larger issue, I think this is a statement that two competitors, at least in the telephony space, have publicly said, ‘We can coexist, we can each go to market with our own suites of products that might appeal to different sets of customers, and we can do this on a network that is going to treat all these applications in a similar way, and not penalize any specific application,’” said Mamakos. “That gets at the root of this protocol-agnostic network management technique.”





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