SBC Expands VPN and VOIP Services

SBC Communications this week expanded its IP-based services to include a network-based IP virtual private network and a hosted VOIP service.

SBC Communications Inc. this week expanded its IP-based services to include a network-based IP virtual private network and a hosted Voice over IP service.

About two years ago, TIB Transportation Insurance Brokers replaced a frame relay network with a managed IP virtual private network service from SBC. The next step will be to converge voice onto the IP network, said Eddie Huerta, MIS manager at TIB, but the company isnt quite ready for that yet.

"Our equipment is capable of adding modules for the voice portion because eventually we want to get there," Huerta said. "But IP telephones are not quite there yet."

High-priced telephones and the need for unwieldy redundancy are keeping some enterprises from implementing converged voice/data networks, so vendors are offering systems that provide for a gradual migration.

TIB, in Glendale, Calif., had SBC install an IP VPN service in 2001 to connect its six offices throughout the country. SBC configured the system, developed the security measures and manages the offering, making it a manageable way for the company to migrate toward IP networking.

As the sole IT professional in charge of about 85 workstations and 13 servers, Huerta said he appreciated not having to purchase and configure the IP VPN equipment on his own. SBC set up a switch, router and two hubs on TIBs premises.

The SBC IP-VPN service provides about twice the bandwidth of the frame relay network for about half the cost, Huerta said. It has proven as reliable, if not more reliable, than the frame relay network, he said.

With a recent upgrade from SBC, TIB increased its bandwidth and reduced its time for repairs, Huerta said. Now, the service level agreement includes a four-hour repair or replace clause.

"The owner of this company couldnt believe were saving money and were getting better service," Huerta said. "Back when we first purchased a VPN we couldnt even get a service level agreement."

While he hasnt tested the new network-based IP VPN service from SBC, Huerta said that would be the logical next step. "I think it would improve SBCs capability to serve us because they would be in control of the equipment. They would have the majority of the equipment in their facilities," he said.

SBCs new hosted VoIP service, which will be available nationwide by the end of next year, includes consolidated voicemail and e-mail, "Find me, Follow Me," "Click to Call," conferencing, and "Plug and Play" features. SBC is located in San Antonio, Texas.