Transformation to Future Networking with Broadband: Status of Nepal and the Steps Ahead (TraFNet)
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Research Motivation

We, the research team members include professionals of networking and telecommunications as well as university professors. Our main motto is to have localized ICT research for our country that contributes towards speedy implementation of new technologies in the field of information and communication technology for social transformation. At the different time frame, we members were involved in real time network configuration of telecom networks, ICT policy formulation including IPv6 migration, broadband communication, latest network deployment et cetera. It was also the major concern of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) to formulate suitable policies and regulatory guidelines to transform the current network into new networking paradigms. The important part for our country is the identification of proper cost of broadband deployment as well as network migration for ISP and Telecom equipment upgrades towards IPv6 and Software Defined Network (SDN), Implementation for Internet of Things (IoT), network operation & maintenance and upgrade as well. Another major concern is the amount of energy consumed by networks. The increasing network size and continuous operation increase the energy consumption by the network devices. Because of this, the companies pay a significant percentage of their revenue to power their network infrastructures. With the rapid growth of smart users, IoT implementation and the Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) deployment becomes major concern for the service providers as their sustainable business solutions. Considering the global pace of technology transformations, we need to take steps for our country’s network to identify its current status and apply suitable measures towards future smart life.
This seismic shift in the technological paradigm has encouraged the team to carry out practical research on the field of smart cities and the related infrastructure including IoT, carrier network and data analytics infrastructure along with evolutionary enablers such as IPv6, Software Defined Networks (SDN), cloud computing infrastructure and virtualization technologies. These technological enablers are critical in realizing a functional high-tech society that can lead to efficient service delivery, better communication and improved quality of life in the smart communities. 

Background

Internet and related technologies have transformed the way humans communicate. Rapid technological advancement, service proliferation and integration of innumerable services have made the Internet an indispensable part of our lives. Traditionally, Internet has been a means of communication between people. The technology and network enabled people to quickly communicate with each other irrespective of geographical distance. This network then led to the evolution of network based services in trade, finance, education, social networking, and public services delivery. Even conventional communication media such as voice telephony and short messaging services are becoming Internet-borne.
Lately, Internet and IP technology have taken another very transformative turn. Machines have started to get more autonomous as connected entities that can create and consume data. This traditionally human activity (of creating and consuming data) has started being done by machines in what is known as M2M (Machine to Machine) network. This phenomena combined with the Internet technology is also called the Internet of Things (IoT). This has created an unprecedented avenue of technological evolution and business opportunity. Concepts such as remote surveillance, smart cities, smart homes, societal automation are becoming a reality. This, combined with advanced data analytics technologies, artificial intelligence, cloud platforms, rapid expansion of next generation broadband networks (wired and wireless) for seamless communication and future-proof technologies such as IPv6 has made the dream of smart communities, industrial automation and automated public service delivery a reality.
According to the gadget survey , within the last 20 years, the number of Internet users reached more than 3 billion. The number of connected devices is more than 7.2 billion mobile gadgets which is even bigger than world's population in 2015. The rapid growth of Internet users and ICT business in the world led to the exhaustion of IPv4 address space and forced the industry to standardize new addressing scheme having 128 bits, called Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). In the next generation networking infrastructure, every connected device shall have one or more unique IPv6 addresses. The vast size of the IPv6 address space has enough addresses to allocate to every such device coming up in the foreseeable future. IPv6 on the one hand improves the efficiency of internet protocol as a whole including routing, while on the other hand Software Defined Networks (SDN) improves the controllability of networking equipment with an approach to using open protocols, such as Open-Flow, to apply globally aware software control at the edges of the network to access network devices that typically would use closed and vendor specific firmware. The invention of these new concepts and development creates bigger challenges in networking for service providers to migrate their existing legacy networks into the software defined and IPv6 enabled network and the implementation of those technologies in broadband communications.
With the rapid growth of internet users, increased Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices and the trend of world moving to converged network environment into the mode of computer networks (IP based network), the researchers, developers and the networking enterprises worldwide are obliged to enhance the intelligence in networking technologies. For the realization of the dream of smart cities and smart communities it is imperative to move towards next generation networking paradigm like IPv6 addressing mechanism, Software Defined Network as well as implementing the IoT & Wireless Sensor Network and addressing the increased user’s demand by having high speed broadband communications.
Being the developing country, Nepal is a net consumer of Internet services and technologies. ISPs of Nepal are the distributors of technologies and services. However, the rapid changes in technology worldwide has raised the challenges and issues for the developing country like Nepal towards the early implementation of evolving and new services. The major hurdles are limited skilled human resources, limited purchasing capacity and lack of proper planning. There is also a need for proper and timely government initiatives to formulate the policies, laws and regulation as well as their proper enforcement to usher in desired change in relevant sectors of society.

Nepal has six licensed telecom operators and more than 60 ISPs. Recently promulgated broadband policy of Nepal is still in the initial stage of implementation while the sufficient study on technology migration, migration policy and strategy have not been set by the government. The change in technologies encourages and prompts the service providers to introduce new technologies and provide efficient services to the customers via technology migration. The migration is a gradual process for which proper strategy has to be developed by the service providers considering the technology needs, customer demand, Capital Expenditure (CapEX), Operational Expenditure (OpEX) and traffic engineering perspectives towards smooth transitioning. The transition period spans longer during when the service providers should have to move forward with proper migration planning with optimum cost. On the other hand the geographical distribution of Nepal is unique in the world having highest peak, mostly covered by Himalayan, hilly diverse terrain and a small part of plain area. Difficult geographical terrain and scattered inhabitation makes it difficult to build communication infrastructure and distribute the technologies and services. Core network migration to IPv6 and SDN, broadband infrastructure deployment with proper policy to suit of those migrated new technologies and the IoT implementations are the major concerns for the service providers of developing countries like Nepal. Looking into the Nepalese context, the technology migration is in the early stage. Similarly the broadband deployment, cloud computing, IoT implementations together with the necessary policy and implementation guideline formulation are in the early stages. This encouraged us to undertake this localized ICT research for our country so that we find the current status of technology implementation and recommend for the future that helps the country towards smart life and reduce the digital divide. We also expect the research to provide important insight to help innovate and introduce new services with right technologies in an effective and economical manner.

Justification of the Study

This research performs the technical and economic analysis of the legacy network migration to Software Defined IPv6 Network with broadband deployment challenges for Nepal including IoT implementation and the security measure that the service providers should consider. It will focus to identify networking equipment status for their upgradability towards future networking, optimum estimate to migrate the service provider network with cost of migration and broadband network deployment and identify the IoT implementation plan with better security.
Technological Impact: This research is highly assistive to the service providers of Nepal to efficiently migrate their current network into next generation networking paradigm like SDN & IPv6 as well as it comes up with proper plan and strategies for broadband deployment and IoT implementations.
Socio economic impact: organizations and the citizens are directly benefited with the use of low cost and affordable new ICT services.
This research would also be helpful to the government agencies/regulators for proper regulation, development of regulatory guidelines/rules and future planning.

Objective(s)

The major objective(s) of this faculty research shall be as follows

  1. Study the current trend of networking technologies migrations including broadband deployment and the IoT implementation for future smart life
  2. Find the position of Nepal regarding Broadband deployment, SDN/IPv6 migration & IoT implementation.
  3. Analyze the future network transformation challenges and recommend the solution for Nepal.

Reserach Duration: 2 Years

Principle Investigator: Babu R. Dawadi

CoInvestigator: Daya S. Baral

Research Advisor(s): Prof. Dinesh Kr. Sharma, Prof. Shashidhar R. Joshi, Prof. Danda B. Rawat, Prof. Arun K. Timalsina

PhD Research Scholar(s): Dilli R Adhikari, Krishna P Bhandari

This research is

  • Funded by University Grant Commission Nepal (UGC-Nepal) with grant support USD4000 under faculty research grant ID: FRG-074/075-Engg-01