MCI Launches New Strategy, Ethernet Services

The new push comes just one week after the firm resumed public trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

The company hopes its Converged Packet Access (CPA) strategy will enable resellers to give customers a cost-effective means of migrating their access infrastructure from the rigid Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) hierarchy used today to a flexible infrastructure based on packet technology.

As part of the CPA strategy, MCI has developed a standards-based carrier-class architecture that leverages the best attributes of Ethernet and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology. The new endeavor can deliver both legacy and next-generation packet services through a common, converged access connection from the customer premises. Historically, individual communication services have been provisioned on separate physical TDM facilities (e.g., a voice circuit for phone calls and separate circuit for data traffic).

"Customer access is the final frontier in creating a network that is truly converged from end to end," said Jack Wimmer, vice president of network architecture and advanced technology at the Ashburn, Va.-based carrier. "As more customers move to packet services for their communications needs, Converged Packet Access will provide the speed, scalability and efficiencies that large enterprises and small businesses will need to quickly adapt to changing business requirements."

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By combining all services on a single access facility, CPA will simplify the customer premise equipment required to run even the most complex networking services and reduce associated access costs to MCI. The CPA strategy is compatible with any means of physical access and will securely accommodate an on-net access connection provided directly by MCI or a third-party leased line; once an initial physical connection is established, MCI customers can logically provision capacity and services as needed without requiring physical changes to the network.

What's more, CPA will eliminate the need to buy separate access lines for each service used and will allow customers to upgrade their bandwidth allocation within hours rather than the weeks required with today's traditional TDM installations. The architecture consolidates all services onto a single packet access connection to the customer through a simple, low-cost Ethernet interface.

"MCI's Converged Packet Access strategy is a bold, innovative approach to improving both its customers' experience and its operating efficiency," said Brian Van Steen, senior analyst at RHK, a communications market analysis and consulting firm. "CPA is an important step forward for MCI in addressing the access needs of its customers as they increasingly adopt packet-based services."

The initial services supported by CPA will include U.S. Private Line Ethernet Services, enhanced Metro Private Line Ethernet Service, and expanded coverage of MCI's Internet Dedicated Ethernet Service. According to Ralph Montfort, director of Internet access services, the new suite offers uniform carrier-grade solutions that enable simple IP applications such as streaming media and distance learning, as well as LAN-to-LAN communications.

"MCI continues to advance its data networking solutions to keep pace with the changing face of technology and business," Montfort said. "MCI's new Ethernet capabilities and expanded coverage will enable companies to effectively extend their local area networks beyond the metropolitan coverage area to build next-generation IP-based wide-area networks simply and cost-effectively."

The carrier's Metro Private Line Ethernet Service provides a dedicated, reliable point-to-point service between locations within the same Local Access and Transport Area (LATA) through a standard, high-speed Ethernet interface, while supported by a 100 percent network availability service-level agreement for on-net services. Beginning in August, this service will be available in additional speeds of 10 Mbps, 40 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. This fall, MCI will add Fibre Channel, Fiber Connector (FICON) and Enterprise Systems Connection (ESCON) storage capabilities to this offering.

MCI also is offering long-distance Private Line Ethernet Services in the United States. Beginning in August, MCI U.S. Private Line customers can connect their business locations using Ethernet on a nationwide basis to increase bandwidth and lower costs without sacrificing network quality and performance. Using an Ethernet over SONET infrastructure, MCI will provide carrier-grade service reliability backed by 100 percent availability and a two-hour Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) service-level agreement for on-net services.

"These big architectures take years to deploy, but [the CPA] really looks like a great plan by MCI," said Brian Washburn, senior analyst for network services at Current Analysis. "I think they've got some unique things that they're doing that haven't been done in the Ethernet space before."

As Washburn explained, the new Ethernet data services are ideal for companies in the financial, health-care and education industries, especially those required to meet new industry regulations for data replication and archiving, and the support of new online applications.

Montfort added that many of these Ethernet services will be available to MCI resellers by the end of the year.