Sprint beefs up SLAs on data services

FRAMINGHAM (10/16/2003) - Sprint is streamlining service-level agreements for its global IP (Internet Protocol), ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and frame relay data services to offer users more choices and stronger guarantees.

The carrier says it will offer IP customers a minimum jitter guarantee and a full month service credit if it doesn't meet the SLA (service level agreement) for some of its Layer 2 IP services. Sprint also is offering data customers three classes of SLAs they can select as they negotiate new contracts or renewals.

"Network performance is very intangible and confusing. We're trying to simplify these SLAs and make them more relevant to customers," says Pete Parish, director of product management for Sprint Business.

Sprint announced its new SLA structure at Telecom World 2003 in Geneva last week.

For the first time the carrier will offer IP customers a guarantee that jitter across its IP network will be less than 2 milliseconds. Voice and video applications are particularly sensitive to jitter, which can cause serious quality degradation if latency is high.

While Sprint isn't the first carrier to include jitter in an SLA, it's one of the first to offer it across all standard IP services. Cable & Wireless and Equant both offer a jitter SLA with their IP VPN (virtual private network) services, but not with their dedicated Internet access services.

Sprint's jitter guarantee will be available across all of its IP services, including its Private Packet Line, SprintLink Frame Relay and SprintLink Multi-protocol Label Switching VPN, as well as its regular, dedicated Internet access offer.

Sprint also plans to offer SprintLink customers a better credit if the carrier does not meet any portion of its SLA. Parish says the carrier will credit customers their monthly service fee if it misses any metric.

Carriers typically offer a credit of 3 percent to 10 percent of a monthly service fee if network performance falls below SLA metrics.

The service provider also has streamlined all of its data service SLAs to fit into three categories: network node-to-node, end-to-end and managed SLA classes.

Network node-to-node SLAs are the carrier's baseline performance guarantees for all data services around the world.

The end-to-end SLA includes a customer's local access, but it also requires a user to purchase a DSU/CSU (data service unit, channel service unit) device from Paradyne Corp. or Visual Networks Inc. to monitor each end of the connection.

"It's absolutely essential for providers. . . to incorporate local access into their availability, latency and packet-loss SLAs," says Lisa Pierce, analyst at Giga Information Group Inc.

Network performance that only covers a carrier's core network is not very useful to most enterprise business users, Pierce says. Sprint would not offer any examples of what their end-to-end SLA would look like other than to say the guarantee will cover packet loss and latency. The carrier says this guarantee will vary depending on customer configuration.

Sprint's managed SLA guarantees that change requests will be fulfilled within 24 hours; customer-premises gear will be installed within an agreed-upon time frame; and a mean time to repair of less than four hours in most cases. These guarantees are in addition to the standard performance metrics spelled out in the network node-to-node SLA.

The carrier's SLAs also differ based on region. Sprint's eight regions include Canada/U.S., Mexico, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South America and the Middle East/Africa.

New customers will be able to choose the type of SLA they want, and existing customers will have to renegotiate their contract to take advantage of any of the carrier's new performance guarantees or credits.

The carrier's new SLA metrics and credits are expected to be available by year-end.

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