SBC goes nationwide with VPN service

Carrier seeks to get IXC frame customers to switch.

SBC last week unveiled a nationwide hosted VPN service it claims will lower the cost of wide-area networking for businesses.

SBC last week unveiled a nationwide hosted VPN service it claims will lower the cost of wide-area networking for businesses.

The carrier's PremierSERV Network-Based VPN uses SBC's private, Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-enabled OC-192 IP backbone for transporting data. Because it is a hosted service and doesn't require equipment at the customer's location, the offering eliminates the need for upfront capital investments and continual equipment upgrades.

SBC already offers a customer premises equipment (CPE)-based VPN service that supports IPSec tunnels.

MPLS lets the service support existing access connections, such as dial-up, dedicated, DSL, Ethernet, optical, frame relay, ATM and Wi-Fi, or CPE-based VPNs that use IPSec or Triple-DES. SBC also says its new offering, a Layer 3 service based on RFC 2547bis, can provide the same levels of security and service reliability as point-to-point techniques because traffic is carried over the carrier's private backbone instead of the Internet.

As such, PremierSERV is a key element of SBC's national data services offerings and strategy to attract more large business customers, especially those that now use frame relay services from interexchange carriers, says Brett Theiss, SBC director of IP services.

SBC and other RBOCs recently divulged plans to aggressively court large businesses after the carriers gained approval to offer long-distance services in and out of their regions. For the most part, they are targeting the installed base of frame relay customers of AT&T, MCI and Sprint.

AT&T and MCI have offered MPLS-enabled VPN services for a few years. Sprint only recently embraced MPLS. Qwest has operated a national, MPLS-enabled IP core for at least three years.

Analysts caution that the "access agnostic" nature of SBC's Network-Based VPN is via gateways, whereas transport of frame, ATM and other Layer 2 data services in competitive MPLS VPN networks is over a mesh of permanent virtual circuits.

"A couple gateways into SBC's ATM and frame relay networks isn't the same thing as a fully meshed network architecture featuring converged services," states Brian Washburn, a senior analyst at Current Analysis. "It's not nearly as developed on the network convergence front as those of some of its competitors."

Theiss says SBC's CPE- and Network-Based VPN services both support voice. The newer service supports one class of service now for voice and video but by September it will offer four, he says.

Sample pricing for the Network-Based VPN service is $765 per month for a T-1 with 100% committed information rate, and $80 per month for a business DSL access line with a service-level agreement that supports 768K bit/sec downstream and 128K bit/sec upstream rates

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