Lucent switch promises tiered Internet service

MCI to be among first beta testers

By James Niccolai

June  1998
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San Francisco (June 1, 1998) -- Lucent Technologies Inc. has unveiled a portfolio of network products designed to allow Internet service providers to offer a range of service quality levels based on how much a customer pays.

The products could do away with the one-size-fits-all approach to Internet access provision, allowing ISPs to guarantee and price multiple levels of service based on who a user is and what they are doing, the company said in a statement.

For example, an ISP might offer a low cost service for casual Web surfers, and a premium service for businesses using the Internet to transfer critical business data.

The ability for ISPs to offer such guaranteed levels of service is important for the development of advanced applications like voice-over-IP telephony and Virtual Private Networks, according to Lucent.

The products were developed by the company's Bell Labs research arm, and are based on several patent-pending technology advances, Lucent said. Lucent claims the products will revolutionize the way data, voice, and video are handled in public networks.

Chief among Lucent's new offerings is the PacketStar IP Switch, an intelligent Layer 3/Layer 4 wide area network routing switch that is due to ship to network providers in the third quarter. This month, MCI Corp. will be among the first companies to evaluate the switch as part of a plan to upgrade its Internet backbone.

"We think Lucent has shown us a novel design that is an improvement over existing routing switch technology," said Vinton Cerf, MCI's senior vice president for Internet Architecture and Engineering, in a written statement. "We look forward to working with this new product to determine its applicability to our Internet services."

The switch will be all the more attractive to network service providers because it works with the installed based of traditional routers, according to Lucent.

The portfolio also includes the PathStar Access Server, an IP server that handles multiple traffic types including POTS (plain old telephone), ISDN (integrated services digital network), and ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line). PathStar offers a set of integrated telephony features including billing, call waiting, call forwarding, and operator assistance.

Priced at about $300 per line, the device costs about half as much as the multiple existing products needed to perform the same functions, according to Lucent.

Lucent also announced the PacketStar Gateway, which consists of a voice gateway that turns voice signals into packets for IP or ATM networks; a signaling gateway, which provides signaling and routing information needed to carry those packets through the network; and a feature server which serves as a platform for the development of advanced network services.

PathStar and the PacketStar Gateway are scheduled to be available for customer trials later this year, and are expected to ship in the first quarter of 1999.

Lucent claims the products will cut ISPs' provisioning and maintenance costs by up to 40 percent, in part by allowing them to allocate network resources more efficiently.

--James Niccolai is a correspondent with the IDG News Service


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