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Optical/IP

Exponential-e Woos Media

Most carriers now are offering Ethernet services of some sort, but some more cutting edge providers see that there's a large pile of money to be made in vertical markets with specialized applications and tailor-made services.

U.K. startup Exponential-e Ltd., for example, is offering its PureMedia platform for the publishing industry, the company revealed this week in a ceremony at BT Tower.

The carrier's idea is to provide media companies with a service creation platform using multipoint VLANs that will give them converged access to applications like VOIP and video, in addition to access to advertisers, printing companies, and media-specific Internet services.

Spokeswoman Sue Kingsley likens Exponential-e's service to a shopping mall "because I'm a girl." She says it's a place where publishing companies can travel in over the "highway," or Ethernet connection, to visit all the "shops," or applications, they want.

has set up agreements with companies like Quickcut, which provides digital file handling, and Adstream, provider of online tools for advertising creation and distribution. The PureMedia platform provides a wide-area Ethernet connection from the customer to these organizations, and gives them control over capacity through its new PowerFlex service.

The point? Instead of having three separate circuits to connect to the Internet, file server, and printing company, the publishing house can use one Ethernet connection that branches out to all of them. It would perhaps turn up capacity to the printer once a week, and it could do the same to the application when a big advertising file comes in.

This type of tailor-made service has drawn the attention of publishers used to putting precious print copy in the hands of motorcycle couriers and the hazards of the road because the files (which can often approach 1 Gig) are too large to transfer over the Internet or even a private connection.

Edward Armitage, an IT consultant for News Stream, an advertising copy supplier for News International, says a specialized service is attractive because "we looked at an end-to-end connection from News Stream into Quickcut but to get redundancy we would have had to put in more than one line; it felt like we were building our own network. Then we looked at a fat Ethernet pipe because News Stream is available over the Internet, but that didn't offer any quality of service."

Exponential-e's managing director, Lee Wade, says the closest comparison for the service is with Radianz, an extranet provider focused on the financial services sector, which was recently acquired by BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See BT Buys Radianz, Wins Reuters Deal.)

Ethernet providers like Yipes Enterprise Services Inc. have launched similar application-specific platforms for the financial services sector, which is going for WAN services in a big way (see Yipes Launches Electronic Trading Service). "The applications are really what's driving" Ethernet growth, says Keao Caindec, 's VP of marketing.

Exponential-e, which counts financial services firms along with media companies as a large portion of its customer base, says it's looking to the financial market next -- putting it in direct competition with the likes of BT Radianz. "I don't think they'll let us use their tower to launch that one," says Wade.

The ubiquity of Ethernet means providers are looking to plug in gaps in the market so they can say they're offering something different. Exponential-e has also chosen to add a midrange service, PowerAccess Lite, to reach customers and branch offices who want connections faster than DSL but don't need whopping gigabit links.

"What we've done here is taken traditional SDH-type E1 circuits but very much given them an Ethernet wrap," says sales director Manjit Sidhu. "It completes our service set for when we do do our wide-area deployments."

- Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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