BT Global Services (BTGS), the arm of UK incumbent BT Group Plc that deals with business customers, has launched a pre-packaged WAN connectivity service for the SME market, with the option to add LAN and IPT services.
IP Converge, as the service is called, is based entirely on hardware and software from Cisco Systems, explained Bruce Scott, volume propositions manager at BTGS. For branch offices, the company is offering to configure, install, remotely manage and maintain Cisco’s Integrated Service Router (ISR), with the configuration following one of over 100 templates predefined for the most common requirements of SME customers.
Then if the customer also wants us to provide LAN services, we have 11 different packages based on the Cisco 2950 or 3560 switches, the main difference between the two being that the latter has a PoE capability, he went on. Customers will take the 3560 if they either want IPT or plan to migrate to it in the future, in which case they will avoid having to provide a separate power source and transformer per port.
If the customer also wants to deploy IPT, BT provides Cisco’s CallManager IP PBX and there are then various levels of management available, from reactive break/fix through to proactive monitoring of critical elements in the routing and switching infrastructure, including a service called Critical Port Monitoring specifically for the LAN ports attached to CallManager. Mr Scott said the Cisco technology itself can either be bought outright or rented.
BTGS is launching the service initially in the UK, where of course the carrier has its own MPLS network. A second phase, starting in November, will see it extend the offering to the international connectivity of UK SME customers, but Mr Scott also acknowledged that, over time, BTGS wants to offer the service to SMEs in other geographies. The issue there is that we have to have control of the VPN over which we’ll be providing the service, he observed.
Clearly, BTGS already offers international connectivity on leased capacity from other carriers outside the UK, but it will need to upgrade the equipment deployed on that capacity if it is to roll IP Converge out internationally.
In terms of pricing, Mr Scott said a 256k broadband connection to a site is around 600 pounds ($1,062), plus an annual rental of GBP645 ($1,142), with those prices including the circuit, CPE, installation and maintenance.
BT will competing with the likes of C&W on the network operator side with this offering, though Mr Scott also pointed out that a number of systems integrators are also active in the space, usually buying capacity on the BT network and adding their own services. He argued that none of them have so far launched such a packaged solution, however.