Mon, 07 Jul 2003

International leased lines tie global businesses together

What is wrong with public infrastructure? Well, as they are public, they must be shared. The capacity -- usually referred to as "bandwidth" -- is used by a huge number of users.

It is so much like the toll road: When there are only a few other motorists on the toll road, you can go at your maximum speed limit; but when traffic is heavier, you have slow down. When there is serious congestion, you have to go at a snail's pace.

Of course, dignitaries may sometime enjoy the privilege of having the toll road all to themselves. Their motorcades, escorted by speeding police cars and motorcycles with flashing lights and wailing sirens, will not be slowed down by traffic.

What can telecommunications operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or other organizations do to become dignitaries in the world's digital maze? They can lease a line from a carrier that builds and maintains the infrastructure. Thus, we have the "leased lines".

A leased line is not a separate physical copper or fiber optic cable; it is a permanent circuit from one point to another on the global infrastructure. The dedicated equipment on both ends will guarantee that a customer will have the "toll road" to themselves. Like a cable network, a leased line provides an "always-on" connection -- only with much better quality and reliability of services. Because of its great bandwidth, a leased line is usually used as an Internet backbone, too.

Leased lines vary in the distances they cover. You can have a leased line from your office to one of the ISPs in your city, but the ISPs may have a leased line that traverses oceans and continents. In other words, we have local- or domestic-leased lines and international leased lines. They may be provided by telecommunication operators or private companies.

Cellular companies may also choose to build their own infrastructure so that they will not have to rely on other carriers when they roll out their nationwide services. They may even offer leased lines to other organizations as part of their business.

Today, fiber optic cables are the most logical choice for long-haul infrastructure. Another alternative is, of course, satellite links. However, satellites may cause unwanted delays and echoes. A direct link via a leased line will provide a connection speed of 15 milliseconds per hop, as opposed to the 500 ms delays in satellite transmissions.

Major companies, especially multinational corporations, usually use leased lines for their various digital communications requirements for a number of reasons. First, a leased line will provide fast and direct connection to their headquarters or other global branches. Second, the large bandwidth allows them to deploy complex and demanding applications such as IP-telephony and even video conferencing. These applications can mean a lot of savings.

We may not realize it, but each time we call a company to ask for information, our call may be diverted to a call center in India or Australia. In this global era, call centers are scattered all over the globe so that they are available 24 hours a day, and global businesses can save money by setting up their call centers where the overhead, as well as operation costs, are better. As callers, we do not notice any delay, because these call centers are linked by leased lines crisscrossing the earth.

What to look for if you think your company needs an international leased line to connect to an overseas office? First, you should find a carrier that also offers "One Stop Shopping", or OSS, service. Such a carrier will have an agreement with its counterpart in the country where your overseas office is located, which will simplify all matters such as ordering and billing. So, for example, to have a leased line you only need to deal with a single carrier instead of two -- or more, if you have branches in more than two countries. You will only have to pay a single bill in one currency, instead of multiple bills with multiple currencies.

What is more, if you have technical problems with your leased lines, you will only need to file your complaint with the OSS carrier, eliminating the chance for finger pointing. -- Zatni Arbi


* Tiny devices to backup your data -- July 14 * Choice of portable DVD players -- July 21 * Why are they called "Smartphones"? -- July 28