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AT&T Launches Managed Network Services

AT&T Tuesday launched its next generation of corporate network services, signing Merrill Lynch for unspecified terms.

The service, called AT&T Ultravailable Broadband Network, links institutions together under one managed fiber-optic network. In the case of Merrill Lynch, 11 major sites in New York and New Jersey will be connected via a secure link with guaranteed uninterrupted service.

Officials would not announce when Merrill Lynch would rollout the service, saying only that it would happen later this year. Four other large companies also signed up for AT&T's network services but did not want to be named, officials said.

Basically, it's a Local Area Network writ large, a growing necessity for many corporations which need a reliable Internet connection to manage inter-office communications, applications and data located in different parts of the city.

This Metropolitan Area Network is monitored around-the-clock by AT&T administrators, which make up a small part of the roughly 200 people who are responsible for managing Merrill Lynch's 11,000 routers, switches, hubs and nodes worldwide.

John McKinley, Merrill Lynch chief technology officer, said its new multi-year outsourcing agreement with AT&T is the result of Ma Bell's ability to deliver cost-effective network services like Ultravailable Broadband Network.

"Five years ago we formed a strategic alliance with AT&T Solutions to design, build and manage a world-class networking infrastructure that would enable us to bring innovative services to the marketplace and provide superior customer service -- while helping to hold the line on costs," McKinley said.

"Though technology has dramatically changed the global environment, our priorities today remain much the same," McKinley continued. "With this new contract, we're counting on AT&T's technological and networking management leadership to continue transforming our business, and keep us on the leading edge."

According to AT&T officials, the linchpin to its networking services is its ability to bypass any data failures and reroute the data before information is lost or there is a loss in service.

That dependability, coupled with the service's ability to deliver advanced broadband services like streaming video and audio for teleconferencing, make for an attractive package many large corporations are looking for in a network, according to Rick Roscitt AT&T Business president.

"For our clients, staying connected to their customers and partners and keeping business processes and operations running is key to protecting and increasing revenue," Roscitt said. "That is exactly what AT&T Ultravailable Broadband Network, implemented with AT&T Solutions' world-class networking expertise, will do for them."

AT&T's new business option uses the latest fiber optic transport technology, called dense wave division multiplexing. It a step up from the time-division multiplexing scheme and is a converging technology that lets IP, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and Synchronous Optical Network (SONet) data travel on the same fiber. Data rate speeds are also significantly higher.

A major concern for competitors was that AT&T, which split into four separate organizations late last year, would require services from other parts of the entity to participate in a service like Ultravailable.

Officials answered those questions at a press conference Tuesday, saying services like Web hosting could be run by other companies. Also, competitive hardware platforms can be used, with Nortel Networks and its OPTera network along with IBM servers certified for use on the AT&T network. Other hardware makers are in the process of certification, Roscitt said, and should be approved later this year.

Ultravailable Broadband Network is available in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. AT&T officials said a custom MAN can be provisioned in other regions, on de