Sprint Canada introduces VPN service

Sprint Canada Corp. is entering the growing remote access market with an IP-VPN service for Canadian businesses.

The telco, a subsidiary of Call-Net Enterprises Inc., will begin Canada-wide installations late this month.

“It is available in market right now for sales,” said

Brian Metzger, Sprint Canada’s manager of Internet services. “We’ve got some preliminary customers deployed. And installations will start in late October with full-scale deployment on November 1.”

The company will be providing end-to-end support, but the services will also allow some room for customer control.

“What they (the user) actually do is, on an on-line interface, they will access a tool called autoMAC, which stands for automated, move, add, changes,” explained Metzger. “Customers will be able to set up move, add, change, suspend, delete user accounts and customize on a user-by-user basis on the service control parameters as to how this individual user or device uses the remote access service given the applications.”

Jordan Worth, telecommunications analyst with International Data Corp.(IDC) Canada, said that this is an advantage for users.

“When you don’t have to depend on the service provider to do anything, or to do as much, it’s great,” Worth said. “If you’re capable of doing it and going in and fiddling around and adapting the service to your needs, that’s great.”

Another advantage cited by Metzger is the fact that the services won’t run over the Internet, but will run on the Sprint Canada network. This, he said, will eliminate the chances of being left without service.

Other features include a managed security token service provided by SecurityDynamics, an on-line custom reporting tool, and around the clock support for both the technical support personnel and the end-users. As well, the IP-VPN sessions are initiated through Microsoft Dial-up Networking, eliminating the need to install custom software on the users’ PCs.

Although Worth noted that the services seemed to be aimed at small to mid-size markets, Metzger said the target is “every business in Canada,” and that there is a pricing model suitable for every type of company, and every type of user.

Metzger said businesses should contact Sprint directly to get specific pricing.

He explained that two price plans will be available.

On a per user basis, through the Usage-Based plan, the price will be $9.95 per month, which provides up to 10 hours of usage. If more than 10 hours are used, an hourly rate comes into effect — an additional $1.35 per hour. But Metzger pointed out that that rate is “calculated to the second, and rounded to the penny.”

There is a price cap of $36.95 for this package, which leads into the next option.

For customers who want unlimited usage, there is a flat rate package available, the One-Price Unlimited model, at $36.95 per month, per user.

And then there is the “Zero Usage Guarantee”.

Sprint Canada is trying to make it affordable for companies to offer the service to each and every one of their employees through the guarantee, which states that if an employee doesn’t use the service at all, the company won’t be charged for it.

“You register all of the users, and if some of the users don’t use it, they don’t get charged,” explained Worth. “You can say ‘we have 50 people that can use it’, but you won’t actually get charged until those people use the service. Which I think is really good. Just being able to know that you can offer the service, or make the service available to a larger number of users without fear of having to pay for them is a nice bit of security, and it’s certainly a good incentive.”

And while Worth couldn’t comment on the performance of the product, he did say that he was impressed with the way Sprint has presented it.

“It sounds like the first shrink-wrapped service. Typically, IP-VPNs have been custom jobs that cost a lot of money,” he said. “And this sounds like it’s a more consumer-friendly application.”

Sprint Canada is at www.sprintcanada.ca.

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