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Qwest Goes All-IP Data with iQ

Qwest Communications International Inc., a sponsor of the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, will be showcasing IQ Networking, its new all-IP service delivery mechanism, which is available direct and via the Qwest Business Partner Program. Qwest is offering training and consultative sales with direct salespeople to facilitate the ramp-up.

iQ Networking condenses its various data services onto one, OC192, MPLS-based IP network. Customers also will have one provisioning system and one set of network operations systems. In the past, frame relay, ATM, Internet and other WAN technologies each had its own silo of processes.

"We are converging on IP," says Bob Schroeder, senior director of product management VPN and security services at Qwest. "Customers will get the feel, performance and predictability of Layer 2 frame, with the flexibility of Layer 3."

Most significantly, customers can connect to this converged transport backbone using any available access method, be it dial-up, DSL, Ethernet, frame relay, ATM, private line, Wi-Fi, etc. Regardless, the customer will access the same network, with packaged end-to-end monitoring and QoS based on applications needs. Customers also now sign one simplified, multiservice contract and have access to an account "case team," for one point of service contact.

"Qwest had not been case-team-oriented," Schroeder says, explaining that business data customers in the past called a toll-free number and were routed based on whether they had T1, frame relay, ATM or other services.

Besides offering a next-generation approach, the idea, says Schroeder, is to take complexity out of the WAN-buying process for businesses. The buying process will shift from comparing access technologies and features, to a customer-driven focus where user applications needs are paramount.

Under the iQ Networking model, customers can choose from four port options: the Internet Port is a best-efforts offer over the public Internet; Private Port runs traffic over Qwest’s private MPLS-based network; Enhanced Port offers customers various QoS for their traffic over public and private IP networks; and Premium Port allows customers to create their own, customized QoS parameters over public and private IP networks. Each has a choice of access technology and port speed.

"These are just connections, or on-ramps to the network, and customers just pay for bandwidth," says Schroeder. "This neutralizes special pricing per technology."

The ports also include additional options, including hosting, remote access, NAT firewall, encryption and intrusion detection. Two new services offered through iQ Networking are MPLS-based IP VPNs and customer-viewable, end-to-end performance monitoring, says Schroeder.

Schroeder says iQ Networking in 2004 will target small and medium businesses, "with the goal of earning the right to serve very large businesses." Enterprises are the end-game, he notes. The new data services model will not supplant customers already on contracts, but those customers will be able to migrate to iQ if they wish as contracts come up for renewal.

Schroeder says Qwest is enthusiastic about involving QBPP and systems integrators in the initiative. Top partners will have access to additional sales support and training.

Two partners have reported a slash in provisioning time from six months to three months for WANs thanks to the simplification that’s at the heart of iQ Networking, Schroeder says. By consolidating separate ATM, frame relay and other NOCs into multiple-technology NOCs and condensing its operational and business systems into a single bus-based architecture to allow for faster service delivery, customer service becomes a differentiator, Schroeder. Customer service has one view of the network, regardless of access technology.

The drive to standardize on an all-IP core will take the rest of the year, Qwest says. It has already IP-enabled its ATM/frame relay network with MPLS, and plans to bifurcate its backbone to create a private IP network. Qwest also is working to establish network-to-network interfaces between Qwest and other RBOCs and CLECs, to expand Qwest’s footprint out-of-region and is signing deals with global partners to attain worldwide reach.

Qwest has more changes in the works. "This is step one," says Schroeder. "We’re converging on IP this year, using existing technology, stepping up network performance and customer care. The second step is to emulate TDM service in 2005 — to offer all-IP, carrier-grade, with hitless routers. No one has it yet, but it’s coming."


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