AT&T Expands User 'Net Access, Security Options

BASKING RIDGE, NEW JERSEY (07/31/2000) - AT&T Corp. last week unveiled a slew of services and service enhancements designed to give companies more secure and flexible access options.

As expected, AT&T introduced public-key infrastructure (PKI) technology in its network to enable the carrier's managed IP VPN customers to authenticate end users assigned X.509 digital certificates (www.nw, DocFinder: 8738).

PKI and digital certificates are considered by many to be the strongest user authentication technology.

AT&T, which has begun testing PKI with customers, still has key details to work out. The carrier has yet to determine how it will charge customers for the PKI technology, and AT&T hasn't decided which vendors' technologies it will use to complement the certificate registry it designed in-house to keep track of digital certificates issued to customers.

AT&T expects the PKI enhancement will be available by the end of September.

Currently, Genuity and Intelispan are the only other major ISPs offering PKI support.

For companies that want the flexibility of a VPN but still can't buy into the idea of sending their corporate traffic over the Internet, AT&T is offering a new service dubbed IP Enabled ATM. The service lets businesses set up fully meshed IP-over-ATM networks that take advantage of Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS), which tags ATM cells with information that directs them across AT&T's net.

"AT&T's use of MPLS is very encouraging for business users because it offers tighter mapping between two protocols, and that can only be of great benefit to users," says Lisa Pierce, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm.

Last year, AT&T kicked off its IP-enabled data services with IP Enabled Frame Relay. Tim Halpin, an AT&T product manager, says both services are based on the same technologies, which include Cisco BPX frame/ATM switches and MPLS.

While AT&T declined to reveal prices, customers can expect to pay double the cost of a standard ATM dedicated connection.

The company is also offering business users a way to access IP VPN and frame relay networks via DSL.

AT&T is testing IP Security-encrypted DSL access to its managed IP VPN services, says Jonathan Cohen, director of advanced IP network services at AT&T. Currently, customers access these services via dedicated or dial-up links.

The new service is called AT&T Broadband VPN and is slated for availability in September. The company will test a cable modem version of the service before year-end.

In the fourth quarter, AT&T is set to launch its Enterprise Class DSL service, which will let business users access their corporate frame relay networks via DSL. "This is a very significant development for larger companies that may still have 56K dedicated connections to remote office sites," Pierce says. DSL is more cost efficient than a fractional T-1 line because users can eliminate local-loop access fees and port charges, she says.


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