Striking a balance

Despite the progress Latin America's fixed and mobile phone operators have made in deploying NGNs, many challenges remain.

Michael Wheeler, vice president of global IP networks at NTT America, said fixed-line operators invested heavily in legacy networks and have existing circuit-switched network or PSTN operations. This legacy network is expensive and costly to replace.

"Often operators don't have another option because the voice switches are outdated and they need to move to a new NGN network or equipment," Wheeler said. "It is also difficult to expand the old network or find spare parts. They need to change because fixed voice isn't growing."

However, Dimas Dias, Huawei's Latin America director for access networks, argues that Latin American operators need to calculate how to attend the old traditional voice customers while simultaneously adding new services. "New technology needs heavy investment and operators are still unsure which services will deliver an adequate return on investment. Large investments are needed to bring returns," he said.

Latin America's Next Generation NetworksMoreover, many Latin American families remain unable to pay for new services touted by operators. Gartner's user survey found that customers in Latin America often considered social networking on mobile phones too expensive. Even SMS--which accounts for around 80 percent of data in the region--is expensive.

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Striking a balance