Equant tunes VPN for video

Equant NV is introducing a managed VPN service designed to reduce customer costs for international videoconferencing.

Called Video for IP VPN, the service guarantees minimal packet loss, which is critical to the quality of video images. Equant says the service, which runs over its Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) IP VPN network, costs less than commonly used and expensive international ISDN links, although the company would not provide figures. Equant acknowledges that for videoconferencing within a country there might be no difference in cost between its service and ISDN.

Many VPN providers offer voice class of service, but this is the first video-specific product, says Michael Suby, senior analyst with Stratecast Partners. "We've seen SLAs enhanced to prevent jitter to accommodate voice, and providers have grouped voice and video together as real-time services."

Infonet last week introduced a voice class of service and promises a video class by year-end. Savvis Communications says it also will introduce a video class of service by year-end.

Equant recommends that packet loss for video be less than 0.5 percent, and it offers service-level agreements on the service, but SLAs vary depending on where the sites participating in a videoconference are located. Different regions support different levels of packet loss, the company says.

To buy the service, customers must purchase Equant's Platinum-class service ports, ranging from 64K to 155M bit/sec, which let customers send video, voice and three classes of data over one connection. The company has two lower-performance port types for data called Gold and Silver.

Pricing for the service is based on whether a customer uses silver, gold or platinum ports, the bandwidth of the ports and where the sites are located. International connections cost more than in-country links. Setup costs for the service are about US$2,000 per site. There is an additional fee for managing the service, which is based on Polycom video equipment and a Cisco router at each customer site. Users also must pay for access lines to an Equant point of presence.

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