Bell rings in global IP connection suite

Bell Canada is teaming up with global network operator Infonet Services Corp. to provide a seamless data link for enterprises with multinational connection needs. It’s a smart move on Bell’s part, according to one industry observer.

Bell said this is the first agreement between a carrier and a global network provider that offers class-of-service (CoS) interconnection between Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks. According to Heather Forrester, director of Bell’s global portfolio, this deep partnership means customers will be able to see how well their connections are performing across the entire global infrastructure.

“The traditional way to interface with carriers was through a network-to-network interface,” Forrester said. “That’s where the visibility would stop: wherever the two networks connected. With this [Infonet] relationship, we can actually do reporting on packet loss and latency end-to-end. I don’t think any of our competitors can offer such a solution to Canadian-headquartered companies.”

Bell offers three kinds of global links: IP VPN Enterprise provides an MPLS connection beyond Canada’s borders. This is a managed service controllable via a Web interface. Bell touts the system’s adaptability, saying it lets clients adjust network capacity to meet their needs, and it presents prioritization, should one application take precedence over others.

The Global IP VPN Branch service puts a router at each of the enterprise’s out-of-country bureaus to connect them quickly and securely to the client’s HQ. Forrester said Bell uses Cisco equipment for this offering.

Global Business Dedicated Internet provides dial-up connections. Forrester said Bell would offer up Infonet’s DSL connections in the future.

Brownlee Thomas, a Montreal-based telecom industry analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said the new worldwide services mean current customers that otherwise had to go elsewhere for global connectivity can stay with Bell.

“I think it’s a good decision. I like to see what I call a combination of facilities-based and virtual network operators,” whereby a facilities-based carrier like Bell teams up with a network operator like Infonet, especially for service that Bell couldn’t, or should not, offer itself. “Today it is not advisable for Canadian-based providers to go out and invest in deploying network nodes outside of the country.”

Bell’s been down that road before, Thomas said.

“Remember they bought Teleglobe and didn’t know what to do with it.”

Bell quit its long-term funding for Teleglobe, an international carrier, in 2002.

Stephen Brash, Toronto-based country manager of Infonet in Canada, said Bell’s previous relationship with his company might have informed the carrier’s decision. Infonet used to reside inside Bell as a partner, but a few years ago the global carrier set up shop independently.

Thomas agreed with Brash that Bell’s former close ties with Infonet might have swayed the carrier toward choosing this global provider. “Bell knows them very well.”

Forrester said Bell went with Infonet because the global network operator offered superior peering capabilities. “We chose a global service provider that had the same quality and that would agree to a deeper partnership, to give us that visibility into their network.”

Brash said it’s important to distinguish between Infonet’s offerings and those of global network aggregators like iPass Inc. and GRIC Communications Inc. Those companies forge relationships with other network operators around the world, and offer up aggregated service to the enterprise, so corporations need not create or manage their own agreements with individual service providers.

Infonet owns its own infrastructure, Brash said, pointing out that this means his firm can provide more than remote-access service akin to iPass’s and GRIC’s wares.

Although Infonet’s peering partnership with Bell is unique, Brash said his company certainly hasn’t ruled out similar deals with other carriers.

And even though Infonet does market directly to enterprises, Brash said it’s smart for the company to partner with Bell. After all, the telco has access to many Canadian-based multinational firms.

“Bell is a force to be reckoned with in the marketplace,” Brash said, adding that if you can’t beat the 800-pound gorilla, perhaps it’s best to call him an ally.

Tag: 04-04-04

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