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MCI launches new IP offers at CeBit

Jun 23, 20034 mins
Cellular NetworksNetworkingWi-Fi

The three IP services launched last week by MCI at the inaugural CeBit America conference are key elements of the carrier’s push to ensure interoperability across its networks, company officials said.

NEW YORK – The three IP services launched last week by MCI at the inaugural CeBit America conference are key elements of the carrier’s push to ensure interoperability across its networks, company officials said.

The carrier announced its IP VPN Remote service, which lets customers couple IP and traditional data networks on a single VPN. The service lets users maintain existing frame relay or ATM network connections as they upgrade new locations to IP, all while using one VPN.

In late April MCI previewed the service, called Secure Internet Gateway, to link its dial-up and dedicated IP, ATM and frame relay networks. The service, which uses Nortel gear in the network, not only integrates various offerings but also eliminates the need for some devices at the customer’s premises.

Customers will not have to support a device at their sites for dial-in users, says Brian Washburn, analyst at Current Analysis. “Some companies don’t have the internal resources to manage these devices and some can’t justify the cost when you may only have a few remote dial-in users,” he says.

MCI Chairman and CEO Michael Capellas talked about the importance of interoperability during his keynote speech at the show. “The No. 1 thing on all our agendas is how do we achieve interoperability . . . this is where productivity comes from.”

While MCI’s IP VPN Remote service offers a clear migration path to IP, AT&T and Sprint have offered unified VPN support for more than a year. Both offer a single network management view into their VPNs whether they are on frame relay, ATM, dedicated or dial-up IP.

MCI also revealed plans to roll out a Wi-Fi service and a new satellite offering later this year.

The carrier is teaming with Wayport to offer business users wireless LAN (WLAN) connectivity throughout the U.S. Users will be able to connect to the Internet or corporate VPNs through one of Wayport’s 600 access points.

MCI says it is still working out how much the Wi-Fi offering will cost, but the pricing model will be based on usage. The Wi-Fi service is expected to be available next month.

AT&T earlier this month announced plans to offer Wi-Fi access to its Internet access customers, but the carrier said Wi-Fi access to VPNs would not be available until next year.

Sprint says it, too, is launching managed wireless support for its data and VPN customers next month, but the carrier is using WLAN technology. Sprint plans to offer wireless data support through its Sprint PCS division over its nationwide wireless network. While Sprint PCS has offered standard Internet browsing, which some companies use to support their internally managed VPN, this is the first time Sprint will offer a fully managed wireless VPN access option.

In addition to launching WLAN support, MCI is expanding its support of satellite services. The carrier is teaming with Tachyon to roll out its second satellite offer. Today MCI resells Hughes Network Systems’ DirecWay very small aperture terminal service to business users.

MCI says the Tachyon offer will fill a gap for users who need higher bandwidth support. Tachyon’s satellite offering supports up to 256K bit/sec upstream and 1M bit/sec downstream. The DirecWay service maxes out at 70K bit/sec upstream.

The service provider says the satellite offering might be a good alternative for users who want to use a single access method for all locations, even those that are rural or remote. MCI also says the service might be a good alternative for users who want a T-1 but find the cost of a dedicated line too high. While MCI says Tachyon’s service will cost less than a T-1 connection, the carrier would not provide pricing or service-level agreement details. MCI says this offering will be available by year-end.

IDG News Service editor Marc Ferranti contributed to this story.