Equant polishes up IP VPN offerings

Equant NV is forging ahead with IP VPN service enhancements and integration with offerings it acquired through a merger with Global One Communications Inc. in June.

A by-product of the enhancements will be lower voice-over-IP service costs for IP VPN customers, Equant says.

Equant and Global One were offering Multi-protocol Label Switching [MPLS] data services prior to merging six months ago. Equant has been integrating the companies’ networks and service offering, which were based on the same network infrastructure from Cisco Systems Inc. Both were also offering guaranteed classes-of-service.

While the companies’ IP VPN services were supporting voice, Equant is offering an integrated voice over IP to many of its IP VPN customers. Equant is using a single platform to support its voice-over-IP capabilities and says users are saving more on termination fees.

“[Voice-over-IP] termination rates have been reduced by 25 per cent to 33 per cent,” says Gopi Gopinath, head of Equant’s IP and Data Services division.

Equant has deployed Hewlett-Packard Co./Netcentrex SA voice-over-IP gateways throughout its networks to support the service. Voice over IP is available in 58 of the 140 countries that Equant offers IP VPN. There are regulatory issues in many countries that prevent Equant from offering voice over IP in more areas, Gopinath says. Equant plans to upgrade its IP VPN service within six months. Included will be enhanced call centre support for voice-over-IP customers. At the same time, Equant is also planning to bundle its Internet Direct access service with its IP VPN offering. “Customers will be able to use the same router and dedicated line to access the Internet and their IP VPN,” Gopinath says.

The service will let users dedicate a portion of the bandwidth from their connection, which could be frame relay, ATM, private line, X.25 or asymmetric DSL in some countries, for Internet access only.

APL Ltd., one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, recently signed a three-year contract with Equant to connect 180 sites in 30 countries to its IP VPN Service, although the company is not using the voice-over-IP features.

APL in Oakland, Calif., chose Equant because the company offers a fully managed service with stringent service-level agreements, says CIO Cindy Stoddard. “We were looking for a service provider with global reach that could offer very high reliability because a lot of our operations run 24-7,” she says.

Before teaming with Equant, APL used frame relay services from one service provider, Stoddard says. However, that provider would use other carrier networks to meet APL’s global needs where it did not have its own coverage. “We wanted to move to a carrier that operated one network,” she says.