Sprint Launches ION, to Build DSL Network

Sprint Communications Corp. (www.sprint.com) officially launched its Integrated On-Demand Network (ION), which has been touted as a network of the future by Sprint’s CEO William Esrey.

In the keynote at last June’s Summer Internet World in Chicago, Esrey pointed to a shortage of bandwidth as the major problem facing network administrators today. He said the bandwidth shortage is rooted in the fundamental difference between traditional voice network design and today’s more advanced data networks. ION, however, ties the two together. ION is a network service that includes local and long distance for multiple voice, data and video services over a single connection.

For migration purposes, businesses connecting their networks to ION will have equipment installed on-site that will start them on the path to consolidating multiple networks without having to invest in new WAN hardware or software.

"Customers need not worry about the complications and expenses associated with network upgrades and management of the corporate enterprise. Sprint will handle those for the customer," says Michael Franz, president of Sprint Business.

One such customer, Hallmark Cards Inc. (www.hallmark.com), connected its multiple communications network to Sprint ION to simplify its telecommunications environment, reduce communications costs and access additional bandwidth. According to Hallmark’s vice president of information systems, Jim Miller, the company also plans to use ION’s capability to build new business applications. "We have selected Sprint ION for multiple reasons, but the most immediate is that ION allows us to introduce to our stakeholders the technology Hallmark needs to compete in the future," he says.

With the initial launch, companies that have a T1 or higher-speed access connection will be able to use integrated Internet and data services, such as frame relay and ATM, options for traditional long-distance services and consulting services via Sprint Paranet. Without a T1, however, prospective customers need to wait until digital subscriber line (DSL) technology becomes available.

Rather than waiting for regional Bell companies to release DSL services, Sprint will build its own local high-speed access links to the ION in 35 cities. Sprint’s DSL will enable small and mid-size businesses to access ION without the cost of a T1 pipe.

These plans entail bringing DSL access multiplexers to nearly 1,000 central offices by early next year and, in the future, to about 1,600 central offices.

This year Sprint plans to enhance ION functionality and bandwidth efficiency to support growing and changing communications needs. Enhancements will include customer desktop control through secure Web-enabled software, more extensive network reporting and traffic information, as well as value-added services that support collaboration, e-commerce, enterprise resource planning software, supply chain management and customer relationship management applications.

Sprint is expected to announce partnerships with software developers and business integration specialists in the first quarter of this year.