• United States

Sprint pitches frame over DSL

Apr 28, 20035 mins

Sprint is promising to reduce local service costs by 25% to 30% for many customers with its Frame Relay over DSL service set to launch this week at NetWorld+Interop 2003.

LAS VEGAS – Sprint is promising to reduce local service costs by 25% to 30% for many customers with its Frame Relay over DSL service set to launch this week at NetWorld+Interop 2003.

Pitched as alternative connectivity to local frame relay, Sprint is using Covad Communications’ local networks throughout the country to offer 192K up to 1.5M bit/sec DSL connectivity to its frame backbone. The carrier expects many low-speed frame relay customers to be interested in this offering because of rising local access charges, says Larry DeNayer, manager of product planning and integration at the carrier.

The service also is targeting customers looking for a less-expensive back-up service that bypasses their incumbent local exchange carrier.

“Customers with 56K bit/sec frame relay service pay about $200 [per month] for aggressively priced access,” DeNayer says. “Frame Relay over DSL customers will pay the same for 192K bit/sec DSL on a three-year contract.”

The carrier says users that compare Sprint’s Frame Relay over DSL service with traditional access services at 1M bit/sec likely will see larger cost savings.

One industry expert says Sprint is on the right track with this offering.

“This is a positive development for Sprint,” says Michael Suby, an analyst at Stratecast Partners. The carriers have expanded the reach of frame relay on the high end, offering 45M bit/sec support, so it makes sense to also expand it at the low end, he says.

Sprint is offering symmetrical DSL (SDSL) and ISDN over DSL (IDSL). While not nearly as popular as SDSL, IDSL can reach users who are farther away from a carrier’s central office switch site. IDSL supports data transmissions up to 144K bit/sec to users up to 39,000 feet from a central office. SDSL supports data transmissions up to 1.5M bit/sec, but only for users who are within 18,000 feet of a central office.

While DSL will offer users another choice when it comes to local access, it will not be useful for customers who are paying some of the highest access fees. Traditional frame relay access provisioned by local exchange carriers can get very expensive for users in rural areas that are many miles from a central office. And the majority of those customers will not be able to use Sprint’s new offering.

Sprint’s Frame Relay over DSL includes a standard service-level agreement (SLA). The carrier guarantees its data delivery rate will average 99% at a minimum, and port availability will average 99.9% at a minimum. The SLA also promises latency will not exceed 150 millisec for port speeds above 256K bit/sec or 130 millisec for port speeds below 255K bit/sec.

The service also includes DSU/CSU gear from Paradyne, which connects to a user’s existing frame relay router.

And although this is a new offering for Sprint and its frame customers, competitors have offered DSL to frame relay for two to three years. AT&T launched its DSL to frame service at the end of 2000. The carrier also offers users an option of using SDSL or IDSL at similar service rates.

AT&T charges users $165 per month for 128K bit/sec IDSL link and $440 per month for a 1M bit/sec SDSL link. These are AT&T’s list prices and do not include discounts.

MCI, formerly WorldCom, launched its DSL to frame relay service in 1999. MCI’s offer is available in two flavors: basic and premium. The two flavors differ based on the carrier’s oversubscription rate, which refers to the number of users that subscribe to a service compared to the actual number of ports the carrier has to support that service. The basic service is oversubscribed at an eight-to-one (eight users to one port) ratio and the premium service is oversubscribed at a two-to-one (two users to one port) ratio. Customers that subscribe to the premium service should expect better throughput and network availability because fewer customers’ traffic is fighting for the same port.

MCI charges $225 per month for basic and $300 for its premium 128K bit/sec DSL to frame relay. The carrier charges $525 for basic and $975 for its premium 1M bit/sec DSL to frame service. And like AT&T, these are MCI’s list prices and do not include discounts.

Sprint’s Frame Relay over DSL Service’s lowest bandwidth option is at 192K bit/sec. The carrier charges $515 per month for its 1M per/sec option for users that sign a one-year contract.

Neither AT&T nor Sprint differentiates their services based on oversubscription rates.

“It makes sense to offer multiple access choices that allow carriers to expand the reach of their existing investment in frame relay,” Stratecast’s Suby says.

Although frame relay has been available for more than 10 years, the carriers still are reporting annual growth. While IP might be the future of all carrier networks, frame relay is still a dependable and reliable data service for business users.