WorldCom plows ahead with VPN enhancements

WorldCom Inc. recently launched a series of VPN service enhancements that promise users more flexibility in terms of equipment and connectivity.

While the company continues to struggle with bankruptcy proceedings and ongoing criminal investigations involving accounting improprieties, WorldCom still is managing to update its service lineup. The most recent offering includes a new fully managed dedicated VPN equipment option, Internet VPN access to legacy Frame Relay networks, and DSL and Ethernet VPN access alternatives.

Whether the carrier can convince customers to overlook its problems in favour of such offerings remains to be seen.

“WorldCom will have difficulty in getting new customers due to its financial situation, but these are good options for existing users,” says Steven Harris, an analyst at IDC. WorldCom Internet customers that have supported their own VPNs might be interested in moving to the carrier’s fully managed Cisco Systems Inc. option, he says.

WorldCom customers now can use Cisco routers when setting up their fully managed IP VPN Dedicated Service. Previously, users were limited to Lucent Technologies Inc. routers with WorldCom’s dedicated offering. Users can choose from four Cisco routers, including: the Cisco 1751, supporting up to 512Kbps; the Cisco 1710 for DSL connectivity; the Cisco 2651 for dual T-1 support; and the Cisco 7206 for T-3 support.

While most customers can choose between Lucent or Cisco, DSL VPN users can use only Cisco routers, and OC-3 users can use only Lucent devices. But WorldCom’s Audrey Wells, senior manager global VPN services, says the carrier will add an OC-3 Cisco router to its list of equipment choices later this year.

Each vendor’s gear supports Triple-DES security and IP Security (IPSec) tunnelling.

The company also recently launched its IP VPN Remote Access-to-Frame Service. WorldCom calls this a hybrid that lets remote access users securely access corporate Frame Relay networks via the carrier’s UUNET Internet backbone. Customers must have a Nortel Networks Corp. Contivity client deployed on their computers. The software lets users establish an IPSec tunnel from their computers to a Nortel Contivity Extranet Switch deployed at their company’s headquarters. WorldCom says it also is planning a network-based version of the service, which would eliminate the need for customer premises hardware.

Customers in 31 markets now can use DSL service provisioned by WorldCom to connect to the carrier’s IP VPN Dedicated Service. DSL support is aimed at offering remote and branch-office users an economical, high-speed option to connect to their corporate VPN. WorldCom also is offering users Ethernet VPN connectivity in Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C. WorldCom has Ethernet connectivity in 4,000 high-rise buildings. The service lets users connect to the carrier’s network at up to 40Gbps.

WorldCom’s Cisco IP VPN Dedicated Service is available for US$1,900 per month, per site, for T-1, 1.544Mbps customers. IP VPN Remote Access-to-Frame service is available for US$1,600 to US$2,000 per month for Internet connectivity, VPN management and up to 100 simultaneous users. There are additional local loop charges for both services.

DSL IP VPN connectivity starts at US$445 per month, per site, for 128Kbps. The company’s Ethernet option costs US$2,230 per month, per site, for connectivity up to 40Mbps. Customers can expect additional, one-time installation fees with each service.