Nexxia Set for MPLS Trial

Bell Nexxia will become one of the first worldwide adopters of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)when it begins trialling its Nexxia.IP VPN service Enterprise with IBM Canada Ltd. this month.

MPLS creates tunnels that resemble virtual circuits over WAN links. It allows users to differentiate traffic and assign different traffic types varying levels of priority.

The IBM trial, which should begin this month, involves an IBM data centre in Toronto and two IBM customer sites-one in eastern Canada and one in western Canada, said Lisa Donnan, Bell Nexxia’s vice-president of marketing.

The customer sites will be connected to the data centre over Nexxia’s cross-country IP/ATM fibre network at 5Mbps. The sites had previously relied on dedicated lines to access the data centre, Donnan said.

The Nexxia.IP VPN service Enterprise was developed jointly by Nexxia and Cisco Systems Inc. All MPLS-related equipment in the Nexxia network is Cisco gear.

Initial trials will allow the customer sites to have two classes of service over their VPN connections.

“At the end of the day, the IP VPN connections are interesting, but that’s not really what IBM and Bell are investigating here,” Donnan said. “A customer would go to IP VPNs, because of the classes of service we can give them.”

Voice traffic will be part of the IBM trial.

Donnan said offering voice over IP service in Canada will be a challenge, because the country has the lowest cost-per-minute rates in North America.

“We pushed back voice over IP, because the customer interest was not there given the cost per minute some of our high-end enterprise customers already get,” Donnan said. “So I think it’s going to be driven by the bundling we’re able to do on the VPN.”

The IBM pilot is slated to run eight months. But Donnan said commercial availability of the Nexxia.IP VPN service Enterprise should begin sometime in the first quarter of 2000, before the trial winds up.

In addition to varying classes of service, Donnan said the VPN service will offer self-administration tools and real-time reports. The self-administration tools would include a mechanism allowing customers to set their own QoS policies, which could change as corporate requirements shift.

Details of the IP VPN service Enterprise, such as pricing and the number of classes of service available, are still being worked out, Donnan said.

Nexxia already offers the Nexxia.IP VPN service Remote Access which relies on VPN gateways and client software rather than MPLS.

Jordan Worth, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said it’s difficult to assess the IP VPN service, since it’s not actually in production. But VPN technology in and of itself is not particularly new or exciting, he noted.

Bell Nexxia in Toronto can be reached at