BellSouth Boosts Broadband Business

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BellSouth Corp. has turned up the heat on its broadband business service offering by mixing in new managed storage, gigabit Ethernet and voice-enabled application technologies.

The three new products are the results of BellSouth's ongoing electronic-platform development project, which focuses on using the regional Bell operating company's network to drive new service applications aimed at the broadband enterprise market.

"Our belief is our network business is evolving more and more toward a platform on which we are going to enable a whole range of services and applications," said BellSouth senior vice president of market development Chris Parsons.

On the connection side, BellSouth is launching a metropolitan gigabit Ethernet data service in Atlanta that offers speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. Plans are to extend that service to North Carolina and Florida by early 2002.

As 95 percent of all local area networks now use Ethernet technology, it's natural for businesses to tap higher-capacity versions of the technology for beefier point-to-point connections between buildings or in wide-area networks, said BellSouth gigabit Ethernet product manager William Collins.

BellSouth is looking to eventually bring Ethernet connections to the residential space, driven by fiber-to-the-curb projects and "the nature of some of the applications we are seeing like, video-on-demand," Parsons said. For now, the focus is on enterprise Ethernet offerings.

The demand for faster connections stems from the changing nature of data, as relatively lightweight text is replaced by more robust rich media. As a result, BellSouth also is debuting its storage-enabled network service, which offers network-based primary disk storage, backup and restoration to customers.

Partner StorageNetworks Inc. will provide the software and operating systems, and work with BellSouth on future data-storage products.

"People are really struggling with how to manage data, from consumers to large business," said Parsons. "How do you do backups is the big thing right now. We see storage as a core part of the network."

That optimism comes despite the recent hard times for the storage industry. Players including heavyweight EMC Inc. have seen their stock price and employee rosters cut.

Down the road, BellSouth and StorageNetworks are also jointly developing a consumer data backup services for DSL customers for an extra fee.

Trials for that service will likely begin in 2002. Depending on market demand, it could move forward quickly, Parsons said.

Voice-enabled applications have also been added to the e-platform lineup. BellSouth is tapping BeVocal Inc. for the voice-activation platform, which it will shop to companies looking for call-center automation, directory assistance, sales-force automation and employee information applications.

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