The question put to a panel of high-level executives at the Telecom World conference in Hong Kong seemed harmless: What, an industry expert from the audience asked, do you think of decentralized networks and the emergence of peer-to-peer (P-to-P) networks on the Internet?

Ki-Tae Lee, president of telecommunications business at Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., took stab at answering the question. Yes, Lee said, decentralized network management will become an issue. We can expect to see different types of networks, offering different types of quality. Some cheaper types, for instance, could offer a P-to-P network service, which doesn’t guarantee any quality of service (QoS). Some more expensive network services could guarantee QoS or offer other types of applications.

That answer prompted machine-gun replies from several of the other executives.

“We’re getting very used to quality on the Internet,” said Carl-Henric Svanberg, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson. “We don’t want disruption when listening to music on the Internet, nor do we want to lose e-mail. Quality will be something very exciting to watch moving forward.”

Security is another issue, especially when having to deal with P-to-P networks, said Patricia Russo, CEO of newly merged Alcatel-Lucent. “Security and increasing personalization will require both decentralized and centralized aspects,” she said.

Both quality and security expectations are increasing among users, said Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of mobile operator Orange SA. “Users want seamless services but we can only guarantee these if we have central control,” he said. “Quality of service is crucial for mobile phone calls.”

Telecom World, which is organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, runs through Friday.

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