VOMPLS Standard to Spur Convergence

Small, midsize businesses wanting simple network upgrading to benefit.

Small and midsize businesses have fewer options for converged Internet-based voice and data services than large enterprises with pricier access networks. But new standardization efforts for VOMPLS could make convergence more feasible for smaller companies.

Brian Riggleman, who runs his own business in Owatonna, Minn., installing Windows 2000 and NT systems for small enterprises and branch offices, gets two voice lines and Internet access with voice-over-MultiProtocol Label Switching technology over a single copper pair. The services come from Jaguar Communications Inc., a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) also based in Owatonna.

Riggleman, a Microsoft certified system engineer, said the technology is particularly beneficial for businesses looking for simple network upgrading.

"I plan on growing my business," he said. "In the future, I could upgrade to 12 phone lines and an Internet line over one pair of copper."

VOMPLS technology uses less bandwidth than VOIP (voice over IP) by reducing a packets header information and by not transmitting packets devoid of voice information, according to Marc Gendron, spokesman for Integral Access Inc., in Chelmsford, Mass. Integral Access supplies MPLS-based integrated access equipment to Jaguar Communications.

The technology suppresses periods of silence to free up bandwidth, which can then be used for other purposes, such as transmitting data.

"Its pretty cool, if youre a small or medium business to have one DSL [digital subscriber line] circuit and have 14 phone lines," Gendron said.

While MPLS is widely seen as a favorable traffic engineering standard even in fiber networks where bandwidth is not tight, VOMPLS lets service providers carry voice services across IP/MPLS networks and manage call quality. In addition to regional CLECs, like Jaguar, large DSL providers such as Time Warner Telecom Inc. use Integral Access equipment.

The VOMPLS Forum, led by Integral Access and Lucent Technologies Inc., ratified the VOMPLS standard in July. The standard is now pending at the International Telecommunications Union, where it will be reviewed in the coming months and voted on as early as next year. Standardization is expected to reduce equipment costs and, in turn, spur accelerated adoption of the technology.

"The real beauty of the technology is that upgrading is so easy," Riggleman said. "Even if youre in the middle of nowhere, like a factory in a rural area, you can still start off with 10 lines and upgrade as needed."

Where bandwidth is abundant, VOIP is likely to be the simpler solution—something even VOMPLS proponents agree on. "If you have a T-1 line or fiber, [VOMPLS] is a waste of time," Gendron said.

Taking an opposite approach to meeting the growing demand for bandwidth, Velocita Corp. plans to launch its fiber-based Internet Access Service Oct. 1.

Based in Falls Church, Va., Velocita is bringing more bandwidth to the arena with its IP and optical network. While the company integrated MPLS into its network for traffic engineering purposes, its customers will not face bandwidth constraints necessitating efficiency measures like VOMPLS; there is sufficient capacity on the Velocita network to carry VOIP calls without constraining bandwidth.

"In a sense, we can use fiber as a substitute for light, and we can use fiber as a substitute for real estate," said Bob Collet, chief technology officer at Velocita. "This involves far less complexity and lower costs [than VOMPLS]."

Velocita is building approximately half of AT&T Corp.s next-generation fiber-optic network and simultaneously building out its own facilities along AT&Ts rights of way. "For us, its much easier to throw bandwidth at the problem," Collet said. "The good news is that our fiber goes to places others doesnt go. Our topology squiggles its way from town to town."

Cisco Systems Inc. is providing the optical and IP equipment to light the Velocita network.

Velocita won the AT&T contract in 1999. The company was founded in 1998 as a facilities-based provider of fiber-optic communications infrastructure and serves Internet service providers and corporate and government customers.

Velocita, formerly known as PF .Net, expects its own network to be completed next year. When done, it will pass through 175 metropolitan areas including 40 of the top 50 metropolitan areas, officials said.

Velocitas system, which has won Cisco Powered Network status, incorporates 144 strands of fiber, Ciscos ONS 15800 long haul Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing system, the ONS 15454 Metro Optical Transport platform, the Cisco 7609 Internet Router, the Cisco 12400-series Internet Routers, as well as Cisco maintenance support, enabling advanced broadband services, officials said.

Through their partnership, Velocita and Cisco also share marketing, lead generation and technology.