SBC unveiled a nationwide hosted VPN service it claims will lower the cost of wide-area networking for businesses.The carrier\u2019s PremierSERV Network-Based VPN uses SBC\u2019s private, MPLS-enabled OC-192 IP backbone for transporting data. Because it is a hosted service and does not require equipment at the customer\u2019s location, the offering eliminates the need for up-front capital investments and continual equipment upgrades.SBC already offers a CPE-based VPN service that supports IPSec tunnels.MPLS enables the service to support existing access connections, such as dial, 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\u2019s private backbone instead of the Internet.As such, PremierSERV is a key element of SBC\u2019s 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 also operated a national, MPLS-enabled IP core for at least three years.Analysts caution that the \u201caccess agnostic\u201d nature of SBC\u2019s 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.\u201cA couple gateways into SBC\u2019s ATM and frame relay networks isn\u2019t the same thing as a fully meshed network architecture featuring converged services,\u201d states Brian Washburn, senior analyst at Current Analysis. \u201cIt\u2019s not nearly as developed on the network convergence front as those of some of its competitors.\u201dTheiss says SBC\u2019s 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.