Qwest, Broadwing Go Gigabit Ethernet
Until now, high-speed Ethernet services had been the focus of startups such as Yipes Communications Inc., Cogent Communications Inc., and Telseon that are largely serving metropolitan markets. The entrance of major carriers boosts the market's viability -- and lends more evidence that Ethernet is becoming a leading metropolitan data services format (see Metro Optical Ethernet, Ethernet in the 'Hood , and Endless Ethernet?).
Qwest's offering, called Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), is focused on connecting customers at Internet data centers. It will supply Ethernet connections ranging from 2 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s. Broadwing is testing a service that connects businesses in metropolitan areas to fiber-optic-based gigabit Ethernet connections on Broadwing's optical backbone, also at speeds up to 1 Gbit/s (see Broadwing Trials Optical Gig-Ethernet).
Although the entrance of the large carriers will put pressure on the younger metro services outfits, which are saddled with high startup costs, in some cases the carriers are showing a need to partner with them. For example, in Broadwing's case, the carrier is expected to announce on Wednesday that it will market its gigabit Ethernet services with the help of Telseon.
The competitive threat to existing metro services is also difficult to quantify because neither Broadwing nor Qwest is disclosing pricing -- but the prices are expected to be significantly higher than the rock-bottom pricing touted by the startups. Each carrier says the gigabit Ethernet services will be priced according to the actual bandwidth that is used by the customer, rather than charging for a fixed-size pipe. Broadwing will measure usage in 1-Mbit increments, and Qwest says it has the ability to measure usage and charge customers by the volume of IP traffic that's used.
Metered usage and the ability to provide guaranteed service standards are considered key elements in making high-bandwith Ethernet services successful, because those features would give carriers a better business case and allow them to charge more.
Officials from both Qwest and Broadwing claim their services will be differentiated from those of smaller providers because they own the backbones and will thus be able to control the quality of service on the network.
"We need to make sure we can get mediation out of the equipment and do usage-based billing," says Tony Tomae, vice president of data/Internet solutions at Broadwing.
"We are selling services to connect to one of the fastest Internet backbones in the world," says Tyler Coleman, product manager for dedicated Internet Access at Qwest. "It may not be the cheapest services, but you will get industry-standard SLAs [service-level agreements] and 100 percent uptime. We're not exactly competing with Yipes."
Industry experts said the development is proof that Ethernet data networking technology, which started in corporate networks, is now becoming reliable and powerful enough for large telecommunications carriers.
"In the next few months we will see carrier-grade service and Ethernet come together," said Mark Allen, co-founder and vice president of telecommunications testing service Valiant Networks.
-- R. Scott Raynovich, Executive Editor, Light Reading