Sprint intends to introduce three services this week that it says will offer frame relay and private-line customers a smoother, less-expensive migration path to IP.KANSAS CITY -\u00a0Sprint\u00a0intends to introduce three services this week that it says will offer frame relay and private-line customers a smoother, less-expensive migration path to IP.SprintLink Frame Relay, SprintLink Packet Private Line and SprintLink Virtual LAN Service let customers keep their existing gear and local connections yet migrate traffic to the carrier's IP backbone.Sprint has upgraded its SprintLink IP network to support a Cisco technology called Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol Version 3 (L2TPv3). The technology lets a carrier encapsulate Layer 2 traffic, such as\u00a0frame relay, for transport over a Layer 3 network.SprintLink Frame Relay lets customers slowly migrate to IP without changing the look or feel of their networks, while also lowering their monthly service rates."On average customers will see a 20% to 30% cost savings compared to traditional frame relay because [the service] is supported over our IP network," says Pete Parish, director of product marketing at Sprint. "We wanted to offer customers an incentive to migrate to IP."Sprint soon will deploy its SprintLink Frame Relay service for Burlington Resources."We had specific bandwidth needs where we needed multiple T-3s," says Chris Farr, telecom supervisor at the Houston oil and gas company. Sprint's service is a cost-effective way to connect Burlington's international office with its domestic network, he says.Sprint's L2TPv3 offerings compete with AT&T's IP Enabled Frame service and WorldCom's Private IP service."This is really an alternative to [Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS)]-IP-enabled services," says David Willis, an analyst at Meta Group. However, the difference is that Sprint's is a site-to-site service, not a fully meshed offering, he says.Sprint does offer a fully meshed alternative - its IP Intelligent Frame Relay service - but this is based on virtual routing technology from Nortel, not\u00a0MPLS.That the new service is not fully meshed is a plus for some users, Parish says. SprintLink Frame Relay is as secure as a traditional frame network because a tunnel, which acts like a permanent virtual circuit, is established between two sites on the network, he says. The encapsulated frame traffic that's transported via a L2TPv3 tunnel is less vulnerable than if it were carried across the Sprint's backbone from router to router, he says.Most carriers have adopted MPLS to support Layer 2 traffic across their IP networks. Meta's Willis says it's not clear if one technology is better than the other, but one difference is that MPLS is a standard while L2TPv3 is not. The Internet Engineering Task Force is reviewing the L2TPv3 draft that Cisco submitted.No other carriers support L2TPv3, Willis says."Supporting tunneling on a large scale has been a problem when managing VPNs in the past," he says. Sprint still needs to prove it has the management tools deployed to support users with thousands of endpoints, he says.The SprintLink Packet Private Line service is similar to the frame relay service in that customers can migrate to Sprint's IP network, but domestic customers are not expected to see the same type of savings. The biggest cost benefits will be for users supporting dedicated connections between the U.S. and other countries, Parish says.The third offering, SprintLink Virtual LAN Service lets users connect\u00a0802.1Q\u00a0virtual LAN segments across the carrier's IP network. But today users would have to have all their routers deployed in Sprint data centers or points of presence. Sprint says it will support the service directly from user sites later this year.