AT&T offering fiber-rich metro network service

By Denise Pappalardo, Network World |  Networking

If you've got deep pockets and an unquestionable need for network uptime, AT&T Solutions has a new service for you.

Announced last week, AT&T Ultravailable Broadband Network is a fully managed metropolitan-area service that lets businesses connect sites that are up to 25 miles apart via fiber-optic rings. Customers can select the required amount of bandwidth -- up to 2.4G bit/sec -- and network uptime guarantees.

The service, which offers businesses an alternative to buying point-to-point OC-48 (2.5G bit/sec) connections or even dark fiber, is optimized to handle large file transfers, multimedia traffic and other heavy-duty applications critical to company operations. Among the early customers is Merrill Lynch, which is using the service to connect 11 offices in New York and northern New Jersey.

But Ultravailable Broadband Network is not for everyone. Customers who sign five-year contracts will be looking at a total investment of $10 million to $100 million over that period. Rick Roscitt, president of AT&T Business, says there are many variables that could affect the price of the service, from service-level agreements (SLA) to geographic distance. "Each service is built from the ground up," he says.

AT&T's offering will compete with those from new optical network service providers such as Yipes Communications, GiantLoop Networks and XO Communications, says Maribel Dolinov, senior analyst at consulting firm Forrester Research. AT&T will attempt to differentiate itself by exploiting advanced network management capabilities necessary to ensure excellent uptime.

AT&T says it can guarantee 99.999% network availability, which means no more than 5 minutes of downtime per year. In some cases the service provider can also support up to "six nines" of network availability, which equates to as little as 32 seconds of downtime per year, says Rudy Alexander, a vice president at AT&T Solutions.

Dolinov says companies such as Merrill Lynch are not going to hand over important net traffic to a service provider that's only been in business for a year or two. "They're looking for a carrier with a proven track record," she says.

Upstart carriers will attempt to beat out AT&T based on price.

Yipes, for instance, is offering 3M bit/sec fiber-optic services for as low as $900 per month, per connection, which equates to $54,000 over five years. But Yipes isn't offering the same type of SLAs, consulting services or network monitoring as AT&T Solutions.

AT&T has deployed fiber-optic rings in six metropolitan areas that are equipped with dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) gear to increase the amount of bandwidth the network can support. DWDM lets carriers get up to 40 times as much bandwidth out of each fiber strand.

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