Telstra blankets Asia with Ethernet service

* Telstra launches Virtual Private LAN Service in five Asian countries

Australian ISP Telstra is expanding its presence in Asia with the announcement of wide-area Ethernet services in five countries: Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. The service, dubbed VPLS for Virtual Private LAN Service, launched in early September. 

Telstra says it is the first ISP to offer an international Ethernet service in so many cities in Asia.

"In markets such as Tokyo, Metro Ethernet is highly pervasive. The same is true for Hong Kong and Singapore, where the geographies are tight," says John Paitaridis, regional director, Telstra Global Business Asia. "A lot of our customers are asking us for Ethernet-to-Ethernet type of connectivity internationally. As a result of that, we've introduced VPLS, which is a one-of-a-kind service in Asia."

Telstra plans to offer VPLS connectivity from the U.S. to Asia soon. Telstra says it will introduce the service in U.S. cities that have a significant amount of Metro Ethernet already installed.

"We hope to have something available in the U.S. within three to six months," Paitaridis says. Telstra plans to offer VPLS in Australia during the same time frame.

Telstra is marketing VPLS as an alternative to MPLS, which requires customers to turn over the management of their IP addressing and routing to an ISP. With VPLS, customers retain responsibility for their own IP address management and routing.

"For a lot of customers that prefer the do-it-yourself type model and have issues with moving to MPLS because of the need to hand over control of key characteristics of their networks, this is something that's quite appealing," Paitaridis says.

VPLS is less expensive than MPLS because it requires no customer premise equipment and fewer services from the carrier. Telstra says that on average VPLS will be 20% less expensive than MPLS services and as much as 40% less expensive than frame relay or ATM.

VPLS also is easier to scale than alternative services. Customers can buy VPLS in 1M bit/sec increments up to 100M bit/sec. With leased lines, customers have to commit to 1.54M bit/sec T-1 or 45M bit/sec T-3 service, with nothing in between.

"With international Ethernet, we only charge [customers] for what they use," Paitaridis says. "That can be very cost effective vs. a multiplexed T-1."

Telstra is targeting customers who are migrating away from older technologies such as ATM and frame-relay to VPLS. Although Telstra would not name its beta customers for VPLS, the ISP said it is seeing interest from manufacturers, logistics and transportation companies.

Telstra says its two beta customers were Japanese-based corporations. One firm is using VPLS to replace leased lines, while the other is replacing frame relay.

"VPLS provides a migration path for frame-relay and ATM, which is also a Layer 2 service," Paitaridis says. "This is a very good migration path to IP without going to a fully routed MPLS environment."

Telstra says customers can get VPLS services within six weeks, about the same time as it takes to get local access in many Asian countries.

Telstra officials say China in particular seems ripe for VPLS. The service is available in three Chinese cities: Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

"We think it's going to be a big winner for us in China," Paitaridis says. Metro Ethernet is not as pervasive in China, so we provide a local loop option like multiplexing."

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