WorldCom goes old school with frame relay

WorldCom Inc. on March 27 introduced two frame relay data services. And that isn’t a typo. Eleven years after the initial introduction of service based on frame relay, a then high-speed packet switching protocol, WorldCom has repackaged the service in order to attract small to midsize business customers and keep existing customers, a pattern that is becoming familiar among service providers.

“Last year everyone was trying to get enterprises to move to new services. This year, they’re just trying to keep them,” said Maribel Dolinov, a senior telecom analyst with Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass. “[The new pricing is] not sexy, but as they say, it pays the bills.”

The two services combine the cost of the CPE (customer premise equipment), the ports, and the circuits in one price tag. This is a significant departure from the old pricing structure that had enterprises purchasing CPEs then paying per-circuit and per-port on a monthly basis.

According to David Natho, senior director of data service at WorldCom, the new offerings address what customers have been asking for, for some time now: a cheaper and less complex frame relay solution.

“How the telecom dollar is spent today is much different than six months ago or even two years ago,” said Natho. “Today enterprises want a good value for their dollar.”

WorldCom’s new solutions are referred to as Bundled Frame Relay and Economy Frame Relay. The former is not quite a frame relay transport service, according to Natho, but a WAN solution that is for customers still using .x25, private lines, or even dial-up. The service offers speeds up to 1.5Mbps and is now available in short-term contracts of one to two years. Previously, contracts were for multiple years and enterprises had to make a large money commitment based on volume.

The Economy Frame Relay service is for large enterprise customers that use frame relay for simple applications like e-mail and need to link up 100 or more nodes.

Both of the new frame relay service packages also include 24/7 customer support and give customers as many logical connections between their hosts and sites as needed. Previously, customers paid separately for the individual connections used.

Meanwhile also on March 27, Cogent Communications’ plans to purchase the Web hosting and Internet access assets of PSINet were approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Cogent offers 100Mbps Internet access for a US$1,000 per month charge over a fibre-optic network consisting of a OC-192 core and several OC-48 MANs located across the United States.