A Beefier 'Last Mile', Courtesy of AT&T

Backbone provider pushes its high-performance fiber optic networking speeds out to the network edge to help businesses build more flexibility at the 'last-mile.'
AT&T is unveiling new enhancements to its metropolitan area network (MAN) services that extend enhanced fiber optic data speeds to businesses, in a move to offer more flexibility to local businesses' "last mile" data connections.

AT&T calls the upgraded package High Performance Access Service (HiPAS), which is geared for large enterprise customers and government agencies with sophisticated applications and high-bandwidth needs.

The speeds range from OC-3 (155.52 megabits per second) to OC-192 (9.952 Gibabits per second). OC is short for optical carrier. It specifies the speed of fiber optic networks that conform to the SONET standard , which lets communication carriers around the globe interconnect their existing digital carrier and fiber optic systems.

"We've taken our core expertise of integrated networking and extended it to the network's edge, where businesses' vulnerabilities are the greatest and where the network infrastructure and systems to support companies' needs have been, until now, the weakest," said Barbara Peda, senior vice president of product management and product marketing, AT&T Business.

"With our integrated networking solutions, businesses no longer have to patch together disparate services from multiple providers. Customers have told us that last-mile access is critical to their business applications, yet service has historically been unreliable," Peda added.

The HiPAS service, which extends AT&T' service assurance warranties and performance metrics of its backbone services out to the "last mile," is delivered to businesses locally in tiers.

AT&T said the first involves its dedicated entrance facility (DEF) -- a local private line service that provides a dedicated communication path into the AT&T network. Based on SONET technology, the entrance pathway uses AT&T's self-healing fiber optic network, which can recover from outages such as fiber cuts within 50 milliseconds.

From the entrance connection, the network service fans out to other inter-exchange carriers and metro locations. In the process, the service bundles a customer's local services into one package with the use of fiber optics technology that also helps customers adjust their incoming and outgoing data speeds between corporate offices as well as with business partners.

Another tier in the package includes AT&T "ACCU-Ring" network service, which provides connections via private SONET infrastructure for large customers managing the communications of all their local channel connections.

The idea behind ACCU-Ring is to save customers time and money by consolidating their traffic -- whether that's private line, switched and enhanced service, or all-distance carrier traffic (voice, data and video) -- and supports virtually all protocols, as a single dedicated high-speed access service to save time and money, AT&T officials said. That's in addition to the high reliability for mission-critical applications that ACCU-Ring offers.

AT&T also said the package of services includes its "Ultravailable" Network/Wavelength services that enable exclusive use (at the network level), or shared use (using wavelength protocols) of a fiber optic metropolitan area network (MAN) that employs dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) technology.

AT&T said Ethernet service channels are available with the its AT&T Dedicated Entrance Facility (DEF), its ACCU-Ring service and via AT&T Ethernet Private Line (PL) Service for its Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). The Ethernet private label MAN service is available in 67 metropolitan areas where 70 percent of the nation's business customers are located, AT&T said, but is not yet available with the HiPAS offer.

According to Infonetics Research, an international market research and consulting firm, Ethernet "will inexorably take over the metro" in the next 10 years with "metro telecom equipment spending accumulating $18.9 billion by 2006."

The bottom line with Ethernet services, experts say, that they are ultimately cheaper and delivers the ability to provision bandwidth, especially at the last-mile level, where many businesses are stuck with T-1 or T-3 connections that only deliver one type of data speed.

Local access charges are currently 40 percent of wide-area communications fees, and they are expected to rise above 60 percent by 2005, said David Willis, vice president of infrastructure strategies, META Group. As such, network ownership at the local level will be an increasingly key factor for the future, "and end-to-end ownership of customer networks will be a key factor in improving service levels."

AT&T called the updated service the first and only upgrade to state of the art networking services from its core network all the way to the customers' locations.






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