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BellSouth Gets A Backbone

BellSouth Corp. announced its plan Monday to host and manage one America's fastest network access points in southern Florida.

BellSouth is one of the few telecommunications companies without an Internet backbone of its own for data traffic outside the local area.

When completed, the Internet exchange will make BellSouth and participating Internet service providers the first to take part in a public NAP incorporating speeds using OC-192 and dense wavelength division multiplexing.

DWDM technology is touted as the successor of time-division multiplexing, currently the standard for optical signal transmissions. In a 2.5Gbps channel, speeds of more than 200 billion bits per second are possible using the new technology. As one BellSouth official quipped, "you could download the entire Library of Congress in 126 seconds."

Dubbed Florida Multimedia Internet eXchange, BellSouth officials claim it will remain a neutral carrier, with participating ISPs adding their facilities to the mesh network.

Several leading providers have already pledged their support and addition to the NAP, including Qwest Communications, Intermedia Communications Inc., Latin America-based ISP Diveo and WorldCom, Inc. subsidiary UUNet.

Bill Smith, BellSouth executive vice president of network planning and chief technology officer, said the Florida MIX supports the next generation of Internet use for all ISPs and providers who want to take advantage of the service.

"The Florida MIX will provide a carrier-neutral hub for ISPs to efficiently handle global bandwidth demands," Smith said. "Very high-speed fiber links between our regions are being installed now. We felt it was imperative to have a high-speed, secure and reliable capability for supporting new multimedia Internet services."

Joe Locker, BellSouth Florida president, said in a press conference Monday this translates to blistering speeds limited only by the laws of physics.

"I never thought I'd be talking about the limitations of the speed of light, but with the optical switching network that's exactly the case," Locker said. "The existing systems just don't have what it takes to deliver next generation services. This is the first step to providing those services."

One of the reasons southern Florida was chosen as BellSouth's optical network launching pad is its proximity to the lucrative Latin American Internet markets.

Florida is the gateway to the Americas, Locker said. Every year, Internet usage south of the American border triples and Florida sees $48 billion worth of business from Latin America. A combination of the two could prove lucrative.

One BellSouth official at the press conference said the network addresses the congestion problems found with increasing frequency on the Internet.

"The Florida MIX will be the fastest public Internet exchange in the United States," she said. "It means getting rid of traffic jams. Internet use in the U.S. is doubling every year. We have to provide access to accommodate this traffic and its important to have the reliability this network will offer."

The BellSouth-sponsored NAP would be the country's sixth. The other five are held by SBC Communications, Inc., in Chicago and San Francisco, Sprint Corp. in New York, WorldCom in Washington, D.C., and ICS Network System's "Big East." in New York.