Convergence products take center stage

After years of talk of convergence, managing multiple services over a single network connection looks to be one of the common themes of this year's Networks Telecom show, which kicks off in Birmingham, England, next Tuesday. The show serves as a European launchpad for new networking products such as routers, switches and software applications for LANs and WANs (wide area networks), and also for telecommunication consultancy services.

On the hardware side, Extreme Networks will be showing its WAN and VDSL (very high bit rate Digital Subscriber Line) eight-port Ethernet switch module, the first time it has been seen in Europe.

"It will ensure a lower cost broadband Internet connection with a very high speed Internet access," said Martin van Schooten, a Netherlands-based product marketing manager at Extreme Networks.

"On 10M bps (bits per second) you can run a radio broadcast, a TV broadcast and have Internet broadband access at the same time," van Schooten said. With Extreme Networks' connection, a user can run all three at the same time, using one plug, he said.

"The Ethernet connection can be run on a normal telephone cable," van Schooten said. Ethernet has been around for 27 years but has until now been used in enterprise networks, he added. Now, users can deploy Ethernet into apartment buildings and hospitals, he added.

InPurple is offering convergence of a different kind: it will be launching a fixed-price, all-in-one network connection for telephone calls, faxes, video conferencing, ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and Internet access via a VPN (virtual private network).

"We are offering a converged solution, with fixed-rate networking which allows unlimited calls between offices, and video conferencing working over this system," said Stephen North, the company's president and chief operating officer.

The minimum cost for the service is 30,000 pounds (US$42,500) per year, for which the user gets 512K-bps bandwidth, 128K-bps video conferencing, and unlimited voice, video and data, North said. Telephone calls to locations outside the company network will typically be charged at local rates, offering further savings over standard telephone charges, InPurple said. It stresses that prices are individual depending on customers' demands.

Network Alliance, a services and consultancy company, will be launching a portfolio of services aimed at helping users with managing the deployment and performance of applications over LANs and WANs (wide area networks).

"We can, with the users' permission, go into their systems via our Internet connection at the show, and see how well their system is performing," said Ken Mann, marketing manager at Network Alliance.

The company, previously a value-added reseller, is remodeling itself as a consultancy firm, and will offer users one hour's free consultation at the show to mark the event. According to Mann, five users have signed up for the free consultation so far. Network Alliance's customers are banks and financial companies like Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and The Goldman Sachs Group.

The repackaged services the company will offer include monitoring network performance and modelling how well an application will perform before it is deployed.

NTL Business, a unit of U.K. telecommunication operator NTL Group, is planning to preview its Contact Centre Services (CCS), a converged management service which will not be available until the third or fourth quarter this year. CCS will enable users to manage and monitor their contacts with the outside world, including inbound and outbound telephone calls and e-mail distribution from one point, according to a company statement.

Network equipment manufacturer Allied Telesyn International will launch its newest ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) routers in Birmingham next week, according to a company statement. Also, the company will show its recently released RapierG6, a 6+2 port gigabit Layer 3 switch, in copper (1000BaseT) or fiber (LX and SX) versions.

The number of exhibitors at this year's Networks Telecom is slightly down from last year, said Toni Cullen, a spokeswoman for show organizer CMP Europe. Around 23,000 visitors are expected, about the same number as last year.

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