Big Bandwidth Boost from Expand’s Software

Expand's proprietory compression points to future big gains through smart compression technology

Expand Networks Inc., a small start-up in Murray Hill, New Jersey, has been wowing its customers with gear recently made available in the U.S.: proprietary software that provides a dramatic expansion in T1 bandwidth, saving Expand’s customers the cost of installing new lines.

These cost savings are acute on international point-to-point connections, where a T1 can be 10 times the monthly cost of a domestic line.

For example, Internet Gold, an Internet service provider with 150,000 subscribers in Tel Aviv, doubled bandwidth for outgoing traffic on a single T1 line to New Jersey after it began using Expand’s Accelerator 4000 gear a year ago, said Ofer Amsalem, the company’s chief operating officer. Because of the increase in bandwidth, Internet Gold didn’t need to pay for a second T1 at a cost of about US$40,000 per month, saving the company nearly $500,000 last year.

And at Texas Instruments Inc. in Dallas, network engineers have been testing the Accelerator 4000 since July on a link 300 miles away and have seen bandwidth increases three times the rated limit, said Dan McGee, network analyst.

It costs $25,000 in the U.S. to install two Accelerator boxes on either end of a link, compared with $3,000 per month to lease a new T1, which means Accelerator 4000 might not be cost-effective domestically, McGee said. But Texas Instruments is evaluating Expand’s product for service to Toronto, where the leased T1 would cost much more.

Global printing company Scitex Corp. has seen an increase of at least 50 percent in data bandwidth on a link between its Tel Aviv headquarters and Boston, said Uri Nachum, corporate telecommunications manager at Scitex. Nachum said he hopes Expand’s next product will allow multipoint bandwidth expansion, not just point-to-point. Expand said it is planning such a product.

Though Expand calls the product an accelerator, analysts refer to it as a "proprietary compression scheme" unlike anything offered today by Cisco Systems Inc. or other big networking players. "They call the product 'adaptive compression,' since they peek inside protocol packets on the wire and they know this is e-mail or a Web packet. And because they know something about it, they optimize the compression for that packet," said Lance Travis, an analyst at AMR Research Inc. in Boston.

Travis said he doubts Expand’s claims of a bandwidth improvement of 300 percent to 400 percent, but he added, “I’m willing to believe they get a doubling with some customers.” He predicts that major network providers will be able to accomplish the same expansion in their products within nine months.

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