Asia Netcom weathers tough passage

Long-distance cable bandwidth provider Asia Netcom plans to open an Auckland office later this year, its first appearance in New Zealand.

Long-distance cable bandwidth provider Asia Netcom plans to open an Auckland office later this year, its first appearance in New Zealand.

The company was restructured from the Asian division of Global Crossing, whose parent was forced out of business last year amid investigation of its accounting practices.

Asia Netcom, rebuilt with support from telco China Netcom, Newbridge Capital and Japan-based Softbank Asia, has narrowed its focus to the finance and media industry.

President and operations chief Bill Barney, who joined the company at the beginning of last year, decided to opt out of the general bandwidth market in the face of deteriorating pricing and with current customers, largely telcos and internet service providers, “shaky or already out of business”.

Last month the company shifted focus to banks and trading houses, with managed network offerings based on frame relay, ATM and an IP virtual private network.

The latter area will be the new style of WAN, and is where innovation is occurring, Barney says.

“In our first year, we won [business from] almost every major Australian bank,” Barney says. Since most of these banks are transtasman operations, this creates a need for a New Zealand presence. A staff of five or six is initially envisaged for the New Zealand office, he says.

Asia Netcom provides services to Telecom, but only outside New Zealand.

The company claims a unique edge for its VPN service in providing five classes of service. Finance companies looking for real-time market positions will look for the highest standard of service, while non-time-critical delivery of video will need high bandwidth but may be comparatively tolerant of high latency. For email and web communication, a lower bandwidth and even higher latency is still satisfactory.

Some may wish to have a moderate bandwidth for daily use, but be able to burst to very high rates on demand or at pre-scheduled times. The VPN service will be capable of bursting to 1Gbit/s by the end of the year, Barney says. One client will typically take services at several different levels, combining them on the same physical link. A business may take one or two classes at first and subsequently refine its requirements.

Media companies are proving another lucrative market in high bandwidth, sometimes for short periods, to carry batch video files or special real-time broadcasts. Australia’s Channel Seven is an Asia Netcom client, whose custom survived the rocky passage from Global Crossing to the new company. A Japanese television company is buying short-term high bandwidth to transmit major US baseball games to an enthusiastic Japanese audience.

Asia Netcom is testing IPv6, Barney says.

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