AT&T expands Ethernet MAN offering

FRAMINGHAM (10/02/2003) - A new metropolitan Ethernet service that AT&T launched last week lets users go beyond point-to-point LAN connectivity.

The carrier's Ethernet Switched Service Metropolitan Area Network lets customers connect multiple LANs without the cost of provisioning dedicated connections between each site.

Users can chose from 50M bit/sec up to 1G bit/sec dedicated Ethernet connections to AT&T's metropolitan network. The carrier is guaranteeing network availability from 99.9 percent to 99.99 percent depending on how it provisions each connection.

AT&T says the service is available in 67 metropolitan areas, but that does not mean network gear is deployed to support the service today. The carrier has moved away from the "if we build it they will come" philosophy of rolling out a new service.

"[AT&T] is not spending the capital upfront to deploy the service" in all 67 metropolitan areas, says Franco Callocchia, director of Ethernet services at AT&T. "We can deploy a network on demand."

In some cases, AT&T will have to light fiber to connect customers to its local network, and that could require up to 90 days. Customers with offices in a building with an existing fiber-optic connection to AT&T's local network could have services within days.

"It's smart not to deploy gear without knowing how much demand is out there," says Sterling Perrin, an analyst at IDC. The failure of Ethernet service providers in the past could be attributed to the fact that they spent millions to build networks and demand waned, he says.

AT&T is provisioning its Ethernet Switched Service customers in three ways: over existing fiber, over its SONET infrastructure or using one of its multiple Ethernet service provider partners.

The carrier also would not elaborate on which Ethernet service providers it's partnering with to support this Ethernet service or any of its other Ethernet offerings that it has rolled out in the past few years.

This use of multiple provisioning methods, all of which support Ethernet over fiber or SONET, is why the carrier says it cannot provide standard pricing or service-level agreements (SLA) at this point. But Callocchia says AT&T will move to standard SLAs and pricing over time.

AT&T's Ethernet offering is an alternative to standard OC-3 to OC-12 private-line services. The service provider is competing directly with incumbent local exchange carriers, competitive local exchange carriers and niche Ethernet providers.

Familiarity important

The carrier's Ethernet Switched Service offers simplicity because it is based on a protocol more users are familiar with, Callocchia says. Users connect to the service with a standard 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet port, which means customers can use the same router they already have deployed to link up to AT&T's local network.

The carrier also says users should expect cost savings, but that's difficult to substantiate because the carrier did not provide pricing details. But Callocchia says AT&T's Ethernet service is priced competitively compared with other Ethernet offerings on the market.

This is strictly a metropolitan offering, which only lets users connect sites within one region.

The carrier says it will offer additional wide area network Ethernet offerings in early 2005. Callocchia says these services will support local Ethernet connectivity for Internet Protocol virtual private network, Ansynchronous Transfer Mode and frame relay customers. AT&T is testing these services.

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