Telecom Gets Flexible for Businesses

SAN MATEO (05/12/2000) - As the industry rushes toward VOIP (voice over IP) and other emerging applications, telecom's three giants, AT&T Corp., WorldCom Inc., and Sprint Corp., are striving to appear sensitive to an enterprise's practical need to hold on to and leverage the networking assets and administrative contracts already in place.

In separate announcements staggered in and around this week's NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas, each of the telecom titans were pitching sensible ways for corporations to ease into IP applications.

AT&T formally unveiled a new integrated business service designed to let mostly midsize corporate customers use the Web to electronically add emerging telecom services onto a single contract.

Meanwhile, WorldCom unfurled Business Class IP Service, a new offering that lets companies leverage their ATM and frame-relay networks by harnessing those existing private networks to an IP infrastructure built around Cisco multiservice switches.

Finally, Sprint at the N+I show played up new services available under its new Enterprise Network Services brand of bundled capabilities the company introduced this spring.

These announcements are geared toward risk-averse enterprises and midsize customers such as Flashcom Inc., a DSL provider based in a Huntington Beach, California.

"We see these bundled solutions as a way to simplify our relationship with our suppliers. It's a way for us to take all of the emerging features and use them to our benefit," said Michael Jones, CTO of Flashcom.

Although Flashcom and others are interested in emerging capabilities such as VOIP, many are looking for simple ways to test the waters, Jones said. "For us, emerging services are still ancillary to what we do. We want to be able to get them from a single source and have a smooth relationship with our supplier," he said.

Flashcom is one of 300 beta customers using AT&T Business Network (ABN), which will allow businesses to flow new and existing voice, data, and Internet service onto a single contract.

AT&T officials said that ABN represents a practical way for corporations to migrate toward IP technology.

Independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan said companies more and more will look to purchase telecom services in a simple, single-source manner. "Managing an enterprise-level network has been a nightmare for network managers. This way, they will be able to take control," said Kagan, who is based in Atlanta.

Whereas AT&T played on network managers' reluctance to ditch or modify existing contracts, WorldCom spoke to that same crowd's desire to work with existing assets by introducing a new service to add IP applications without purchasing any new customer premise equipment.

WorldCom's Business Class IP service is powered by Cisco System Inc.'s family of MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) products and IP+ATM multiservice switches.

With its Enterprise Network Services, Sprint is looking to lure telecom managers with the promise of converged voice and data through its ION service blanketed with network management add-ons.

AT&T Corp., in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is at www.att.com. WorldCom Inc., in Jackson, Mississipi, is at www.worldcom.com. Sprint Corp., in Kansas City, Missouri, is at www.sprint.com.

Simplifying IP

Carriers are pitching IP plans.

* AT&T Business Network: Web interface to order and track all telecom service and add IP capabilities on a single contract* WorldCom Business Class IP: IP VPN that hooks private-line networks into IP infrastructure* Sprint Enterprise Network Services: bundled voice and data services combined with network management and security

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