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Qwest Guarantees Performance--Even Over Competitors' Nets

Qwest promises traffic will take less than 95 milliseconds on a two-way trip between its network and those of the industry's top five carriers.
Qwest Communications International Inc. is increasing the level of performance it guarantees on its network. In the process, it is offering the first guarantees to also cover traffic carried by other carriers. The guarantees are part of stronger service-level agreements that apply to Qwest's services and traffic exchanged with five other top Internet backbone operators.

The new shared-traffic SLA promises customers that their traffic will take less than 95 milliseconds to complete a two-way trip between Qwest's network and those of the industry's top five carriers, based on a percentage of all network traffic. The agreement also guarantees 99.5% packet-delivery rates on Qwest's network and maximum two-way delays of less than 50 milliseconds on average.

Covered by the SLAs are the company's Dedicated Internet Access and Virtual Private Network services. Later this month, coverage will include its dial-up and hosting services, says Martin Capurro, a director of product management for Qwest.

While stronger SLAs are good, carriers including Qwest haven't done a good job explaining the technology that makes stronger SLAs possible, says Paul Bugala, an International Data Corp. analyst. Nor have they given customers the tools needed to keep track of actual network performance. Says Bugala, carriers "have to show how their infrastructures are making these great leaps in performance possible. Otherwise, the SLAs are just numbers on a sheet of paper."