The Multimedia Services Affiliate Forum

Created in 1995 to promote global interconnectivity and interoperability between service providers of the next generation of network enabled, application based services.

Last Update: MSAF has transferred its IP-centric services programs to the IMTC and the TMF

The mission, working groups and funds of MSAF have been transferred to the International Multimedia Teleconferencing Consortium (now part of MEF) and the TeleManagement Forum.
The IMTC agreed that with the cooperation of MSAF members and with MSAF funds a more rapid development of interoperable multimedia IP equipment standards and interoperable IP multimedia services will be enabled. The TMF agreed that with the cooperation of MSAF members and with MSAF funds a more rapid development of a globally interoperable multimedia services network management framework will be enabled.

Please note this is a web snapshot dated August 2020 - MSAF is not currently operational, this is an archival record of the original MSAF operating site for information and research purposes

Wrap your arms around the world

MSAF Vision Statement

It is the Multimedia Services Affiliate Forum members' vision to provide customers with secure, reliable, easy-to-use, global multimedia communication services using interoperable IP-centric platforms.

MSAF Mission Statement

In order to promote the deployment of seamless, reliable and secure interoperable IP-based network services across multiple networks serving the needs of customers worldwide, the scope of MSAF's activities includes the following: Identify customer needs for interoperable services; define requirements to address network services interoperability; finalize common service definitions; and identify corresponding opportunities for interoperable services. Develop interoperability implementation guidelines. Support trials in order to assess and demonstrate interoperability between and among vendors and service providers. Facilitate interconnection of interoperable services among MSAF service provider members.

Interconnection Value Proposition

The Multimedia Services Affiliate Forum (MSAF) was created in 1995 to promote global interconnectivity and interoperability between service providers of the next generation of network enabled, application based services, thereby accelerating the development of this market while at the same time enabling MSAF members to better meet the demands of their global business customers for these seamless services.

Since 1995, profound changes in our industry have led to uncertainty on the part of some MSAF members as to the value of the organization as it is currently chartered. Both the rise of the Internet and the movement away from proprietary systems bring into question the value of interconnected network-based services. Further, MSAF’s focus on the interconnection of value added networks of competing carriers seems inconsistent with a market that is increasingly dominated by fiercely competitive alliances of the world’s leading service providers. Finally, even absent these global alliances, lack of significant interconnection between MSAF service provider member networks to date seems to suggest that many MSAF members have not fully accepted network interconnection as a compelling business model for meeting the increasing needs of global business customers.

This paper has been created by MSAF’s Marketing and Services Working Group, in concert with the MSAF Board of Directors, as a tool for MSAF members to use to describe the value of MSAF to the senior management of their individual companies. This paper will attempt to provide the facts and logic needed to make a compelling case that:

  • The MSAF mission and its focus on interconnection and interoperability remain as important today as it was when the forum was created in 1995.
  • The rise of global service provider alliances does not diminish in any way the benefits associated with interconnection of value added service networks between and among competing service providers and/or alliances.
  • Interconnection remains an effective alternative MSAF service providers should consider when attempting to meet the requirements of global customers for seamless, value added services.

The goal of this paper is to ensure that, at a minimum, all MSAF service provider participants recognize the value of MSAF to their company and the industry generally. Each individual MSAF service provider member is responsible for determining how, and in what form, to use this document within their own companies.

Interconnection and Interoperability - Status & Successes

To date, after two years of existence, MSAF has fostered one commercial interconnection between MSAF service provider networks (NTT - Interliant interconnection of the NotesMail service). While expectations were that more MSAF members would have interconnected at this time, it is clearly too early to conclude that the original MSAF mission has not been achieved.

MSAF has recognized from the beginning that decisions on interconnection will be made by the service providers, not MSAF, based on business considerations, not on the success or failure of the MSAF mission. The fact that MSAF members have not yet interconnected does not diminish the importance of having templates for agreements in place to use if and when business considerations mandate such interconnections.

Further, the need of businesses for interoperable managed network based services has increased since MSAF was formed two years ago. MSAF estimates that there will be approximately 290 million global customers for MSAF designated service by the year 2000 and that the interconnected offers have significant potential revenue opportunities which could be minimized / lost without interconnections. No single carrier is able to satisfy that demand or take advantage of that revenue alone. It is therefore more likely that MSAF is advanced in its thinking in terms of interconnection than it is that interconnection is not a valid business model.

While the decision to interconnect is outside the scope of MSAF’s charter, the ability to address the practical aspects of services interoperability issues for both connectivity and applications is not. In that role, MSAF and its Service Interoperation Committees (SICs) have an impressive record:

- Global Intranet Access SIC has completed the common services description (CSD) paper that defines how a user can access his/her server at the office via remote LAN dial/dedicated IP services utilizing existing and forthcoming tunneling protocols (e.g., L2TP). This committee is currently developing an implementation agreement (IA) and implementation operations guide (IOG) that can be used by the service provider members to interconnect with each other by utilizing common technologies, processes, etc., to ensure secure, global seamless IP service. Technology provider and service provider trials of the architecture are planned to occur in the first half of 1999.

- Lotus SIC completed its first IA and IOG for the NotesMail interoperability, which was used by NTT and Interliant in the establishment of their interconnection agreement. The Lotus SIC addressed the service interoperation issues relating to database replication. The IA and IOG for the database replication were in the process of being completed in 1998.

- Novell SIC completed both the User-to-Network Interface (UNI) and the Network-to-Network Interface (NNI) for the Novell Directory Service (NDS) that supports both IP and IPX protocols for LAN to LAN and / or remote LAN connectivity. The IA was in the process of being completed in 1998.

MSAF in a World of Global Telecommunication Alliances

Some MSAF members have questioned the value of an interconnection model in an industry that is increasingly dominated by aggressive and competitive super carrier alliances. What motivation does a super carrier have to participate in a meaningful way in a forum that, if successful, will reduce the differentiation the super carrier can offer business customers seeking global seamless services?

Clearly, a company that is determined to serve business customers either directly or through equity alliances may not place a high priority on interconnecting their expanded networks with other carriers. However, MSAF continues to provide value to even the most aggressive super carriers:

No carrier alliance in existence today can offer truly global seamless, managed network based services in this competitive arena worldwide. While major population areas may eventually be covered by these alliances, Fortune 500 companies’ communications needs often go beyond these geographical areas.

While carrier alliances may have a presence in major markets, their major customers may already have a relationship with another carrier in that region. Many of these customers will demand the ability to maintain their relationship with their existing carrier in region and enjoy seamless service with the carrier alliance network deployed somewhere else in the world. Interconnection is the only viable means of addressing this issue.

Carrier alliances face their own interconnection difficulties among the services of the various members of those alliances. The work completed within MSAF can be used by these alliances internally, thereby saving resources and reducing critical time to market.

Business Customers

MSAF members are working to provide business customers with secure, reliable and easy-to-use services on interoperable network based multimedia platforms and information services, on a global basis. This provides businesses a distinct competitive advantage through:

  • a secure and reliable conduit for intra- and inter-company communication, expanding current capabilities for business users- Revenues
  • improved service levels to their customer sets through expanded data, voice, and video communication- Revenues
  • increased internal effectiveness through global reach and collaboration- Bottom Line
  • reduced operational complexity of communications for greater focus on core business-Bottom Line

Service Providers

MSAF service provider members have positioned themselves to take advantage of the convergence between telephony and computers in order to provide business solutions. MSAF service providers agree to use standard architectures at the "network-to-network interface" level, and through the Forum recognize benefits from:

  • the opportunity to offer globally accessible value-added services and transport to their multinational customers on a regional basis.
  • shorter time to market because of the investment of capital and work hours made by Forum members to guarantee interoperable carrier grade multimedia services.
  • the ability to contribute to the growth of an open system of intelligent communications and to benefit from the profitability of growing networks.

The Future of MSAF

This paper is designed to demonstrate the continuing value of the original MSAF charter. However, this value of the original charter does not diminish the need for MSAF to continue to evolve with the fast paced industry in which it plays a vital role. In 1999 MSAF expanded its original charter to address additional issues of great interest to all service providers, including:

Electronic Transactions to facilitate global electronic commerce, specific areas that need to be addressed include international clearinghouse for various electronic payment means, cross-certificate authority to provide necessary trust for both buyers and sellers, and Public Key Infrastructure.

Internet Telephony to facilitate PSTN-to-PSTN IP telephony, specific areas that need to be addressed include quality of service, service management, and settlement.

Clearinghouse function to facilitate operation of both common functions (e.g., authentication, certification, global naming, QoS) and settlement of traffic/revenue for the MSAF designated services, once critical mass of interconnections is achieved. MSAF is monitoring the major initiatives in this area and incorporating results into its IP telephony and Global Intranet Access working groups.

This is an exciting time for our industry and for MSAF. We hope that all MSAF members will continue to benefit from the work being done within the forum and commit the resources necessary to expand the mission in a way that serves all of us.