SBC is the latest local-exchange carrier to throw its hat into the nationwide IP VPN services ring, challenging the traditional long-haul carriers' turf.The carrier recently launched the SBC PremierSERV Network-Based VPN (NVPN), a Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based IP VPN service. The twist is that, rather than specifying an access technology for each site and matching technologies and speeds with a matrix of prices, SBC says you just specify the speeds you require at your various corporate sites. Pricing is based strictly on speed.SBC will determine the most cost-effective access service for each site without your having to worry about it. Service speeds range from 64K to 2.4G bit\/sec.For existing SBC Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) customers, SBC simply adds a premium to your monthly fee for directing your intranet traffic to a Cisco-based MPLS backbone that does not commingle your traffic with public Internet traffic.For example, a DIA service at 1.5M bit\/sec (T-1) speeds is $699 per month; for an additional $66 ($765), you gain access to the VPN service.Other sample monthly VPN prices, presuming a three-year contract:* 12M bit\/sec: $4,102 (DIA price at this speed plus a premium of $439).* 30M bit\/sec: $7,331(DIA price at this speed plus a premium of $1,200).* 145M bit\/sec: $26,404 (DIA price at this speed plus a premium of $6,298).As for service guarantees, the provider promises an "IP committed information rate" end to end at the access speed specified for each site, along with 99.99% network availability, less than 40 milliseconds delay, and less than .1% packet loss. These performance metrics are independent of access type: TDM, frame relay, ATM, SONET, and last-mile wireless technologies.DSL access for smaller sites is also available; SBC says these performance guarantees will be available for DSL later this year.As a managed service, PremierSERV includes managed CPE. So if SBC deems ATM as the "best" way to connect you to the VPN service, the carrier will install an ATM switch at your site and manage it, says a company spokesman.Many LECs have announced long-haul VPN services lately. For example, Verizon said last fall it is building an MPLS-based IP VPN service using Cisco routers. Qwest earlier this year said it would soon offer frame relay and ATM access to a new IP VPN service based on its existing MPLS backbone. To date, the company has offered IPSec-based encrypted VPN services through the public Internet.