EarthLink rolls out expanded broadband services

EarthLink announced last week that it is teaming with DirecPC to offer users across the U.S. high-speed Internet access service.

The ISP launched EarthLink Satellite Powered by DirecPC service in a number of cities on the East Coast. EarthLink expects to offer the satellite service nationwide by the end of the month.

The service supports 400K bit/sec downstream and 144K bit/sec upstream Internet access. Customers use a 2-by-3 foot dish to connect to the Internet. The two-way dish lets users download and upload Internet traffic while working from home or a remote office.

As the service first rolls out, customers are issued a single IP address. That means a small office that signs up for the service would have to connect one PC to the receiver, which would then act as a server. Other users can connect to the server via a LAN in a small-office environment.

EarthLink plans to introduce a multiple-IP-address version of the service that will let many users more easily connect to the service. The ISP is also evaluating fixed wireless Internet access offerings that it would gear toward business users.

Also, Sprint is connecting its fixed wireless multipoint, multichannel distribution service customers to the Internet using EarthLink's network. But the ISP did not say if it expects to expand that relationship to build on its broadband user base and service offerings.

"EarthLink has 288,000 broadband customers," according to Tom Andrus, vice president of emerging technology at the ISP. The majority of those customers are using EarthLink's DSL Internet access service. EarthLink partners with incumbent local exchange carriers and Covad Communications to locally provision DSL Internet access service customers.

EarthLink is in the midst of a handful of open access cable Internet trials with service providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable. It's also offering service over Charter Communications' cable network, Andrus says. But these broadband services don't reach all customers.

Unlike DSL or cable modem service, the satellite service is available anywhere in the U.S. that offers an unobstructed view of the southern sky. This makes the service more attractive to users who do not have access to land line broadband services.

EarthLink Satellite service costs $70 per month in addition to a one-time installation cost of $900. The fee includes $650 for the dish and $250 to have the system installed.

EarthLink's business DSL service is available in about 50 markets, the company says. It includes eight IP addresses, with the option for more, and includes a router. The offer ranges from $140 to $400 per month for 144K bit/sec to 1.5M bit/sec DSL connectivity.

While the ISP has focused exclusively on residential customers and companies with fewer than 100 employees, it says it will offer services for large businesses before the end of September.

EarthLink will introduce a VPN service that will be an extension of a company's existing secure network service, Andrus says.

The vendor will work with corporate customers to define the security and access parameters they want to support. EarthLink's VPN service will differ from other ISP offerings because it will nnot lock users into specific hardware or software. EarthLink plans to support the service with standards-based security devices that will interoperate with any VPN gateway or router that may be deployed at a company's headquarters.

The VPN offering will also tie in with the EarthLink Everywhere service, the ISP's wireless Internet access initiative announced earlier this year (See story). Users can access their corporate network using a Rim BlackBerry handheld device or Ricochet wireless modem attached to their PCs.

George A. Chidi with the IDG News Service contributed to this story.

This story, "EarthLink rolls out expanded broadband services" was originally published by Network World.

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