AT&T All Out for MPLS-Based IP-VPN

Underlining a “transformation” strategy it introduced earlier this year, AT&T today announced a new virtual private network offering via the carrier’s Internet Protocol infrastructure.

The offerings enables corporations and government agencies to operate
applications — intranets, e-mail, extranets, remote access and Voice over Internet Protocol — on AT&T’s multi-protocol label switching-enabled core IP network.

MPLS uses digital shorthand to label data packets, allowing network routers to run at faster speeds because they don’t need to examine each one as closely. And because the packets travel over the Bedminster, N.J., carrier’s own system, traffic is walled off from public Internet — a selling point for security-minded customers.

At the same time, the architecture enables usage-based billing and
management tools, such as the ability to set a range of access speeds for users and offices. AT&T’s IP VPN service also provides online usage reports and the ability to make changes in services through a Web portal.

The Bedminster, N.J., carrier is offering several options for management of the service.

“For our customers who want a fully managed IP VPN, AT&T will supply and manage the customer premise equipment,” Dan Blemings, product manager for
AT&T’s IP VPN Services, said. “For our customers who want to manage their own routers, AT&T can simply provide transport.”

Customers can also pick and choose, having AT&T manage routers at some locations and not at others. What’s important is that additional VPN tunneling gear is not needed, Blemings said. There are three billing plans to choose from: flat rate, total usage, or a combination of the two.

The first customer for the IP VPN is Allied Electronics, which wanted to connect far-flung operations and reduce networking costs. Terms of that deal, which included design, deployment and support from AT&T’s services arm, were not disclosed.

The offering is the latest step in AT&T’s strategy to transform itself from a carrier of consumer long-distance calls to a provider of IP services for enterprises.

AT&T laid the groundwork for VoIP in the 1990s, when it began investing billions to transform its network from circuits to Internet protocol-based standards, such as MPLS.

Analysts at IT researcher Gartner say enterprise customers are increasingly turning to the technology, predicting that by next year MPLS will be “the dominate approach to enhanced managed IP services.”

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