Can Ethernet Be Stopped?

Not if optical IP network provider yipes can help it.

If you believe the savvy marketing at Yipes Communications Inc., the public switched telephone network and its ATM to SONET backbone are in serious trouble. IP over Gigabit Ethernet is being deployed at a record clip. And the 10G Ethernet standard is right around the corner, which will make chop suey of ATMs 622Mbps. ATMs traditional advantage in quality of service (QoS) is also about to be usurped by IPs own QoS mechanisms, Diffserv and Multiprotocol Label Switching.

The problem with Ethernet is that it was great for the LAN environment, but it couldnt be deployed to the customer—the so-called last mile. But two things happened to change that: Ethernet became switched, minimizing collisions and allowing long-distance communication; and fiber-optic cable was laid in sufficient quantity to support metropolitan and nationwide networks. Yipes exploits that with something it claims is a disruptive technology, one that threatens the very heart of the existing phone infrastructure.

Yipes delivers Internet access thats less expensive than a T1, pumps more bandwidth than a DSL line, is Ethernet-based and is scalable.

The standard minimum provisioning is 3Mbps for $450 and can be beefed up in 1Mbps increments all the way to 1Gbps, a perfect model for service providers to buy in bulk because the price per megabit falls with size. Its also more adaptable to customer needs than provisioning multiple T1s—one of which can cost $2,500 a month, but more likely $800 a month–or a full-blown T3.

Time for a reality check? Pacific Bell charges $4,200 a month for the 20Mbps version of its ATM-backed DS3, according to its Web site. Yipes does it for less than $2,000.

Temporary bandwidth also can be provided by xSPs to their customers using the Yipes network, ramping up bandwidth for a special event. That model is far different from the traditional usage-based line, because the extra bandwidth cost is not permanent. XSPs retain approximately a 10 percent discount from a Yipes-based agreement. Hmmm.

Basically, Yipes leases dark fiber—unused fiber-optic cable—from various backbone providers such as Level3 and UUNet. It constructs a fiber-optic "ring" around a metropolitan area—20 in the United States so far. Within that metropolitan ring are local-access loops that serve as customer touch points. Yipes then connects the metro rings together using more dark fiber, creating a nationwide fiber-based network.

Theres a downside here: distance and service availability. Barry Eastman, director of business operations for Front Range Internet Inc., an ISP that uses Yipes, quips, "Id take Yipes any day of the week over a T1—if its available."

Yipes footprint doesnt begin to cover everybody, but other large carriers are taking notice. Both Cable and Wireless and WorldCom are making noise about similar offerings. Until then, Yipes may just fit the bill—if its available in your area.