AT&T Plans New Internal IP Network



AT&T has begun to move its internal global network, supporting over 100,000 employees, to an Internet Protocol over Sonet infrastructure. The project is expected to take several years, according to Rick Roscitt, CEO of AT&T Solutions, who disclosed the plans today, Feb. 19.

"We need to continue dropping unit costs while at the same time scaling up and reducing complexity," Roscitt says. The current network, a unified global network that integrated 22 separate networks over the past several years using ATM and frame relay switches, cannot be made much more efficient, Roscitt says, and traffic volume is doubling every eight to 12 months because of E-mail, Internet access, intranet usage, multimedia, and distance learning.

The new network will support about one-third to one-half of all of AT&T employees, or about 100 AT&T locations around the world, by the end of this year, Roscitt says. Also by the end of this year, he adds, the skills and technologies developed in building the new network could be made available to build similar networks for external customers of AT&T Solutions, which manages the AT&T internal network and provides network outsourcing services.

Four gateways for conversion of IP signals to signals that ordinary telephone switches, or PBXs, can understand have already been established around the world for testing purposes. Six experimental telephones that use IP addresses are currently in trial.

By May, Cisco is expected to deliver high-speed gigabyte routers, which would largely replace ATM and frame relay switches in the AT&T internal network. Software is also being readied by several firms, which Roscitt declined to identify, to help manage network quality. About one dozen Sonet rings--fiber-optic transport lines capable of OC48 speeds, many times faster than ordinary voice lines--are being ordered now.

Roscitt says AT&T will spend about $25 million on the new network this year, but was uncertain of the total costs required to complete it.

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