Telecommunications giant Sprint is to launch a private IP network aimed at security-conscious US government agencies by June.
The network will mimic Sprint's SprintLink enterprise-class, IP backbone network and offer most of the same features, except that it wuill not be connected to the public internet.
Sprint expects government agencies wants to protect sensitive protective of data to be the first customers.
The "government-grade" private internet should have one or two government agencies as its customers by its launch in late June, said Steve Lunceford, a Sprint spokesman.
Customers using the private network would have to use SprintLink or another public backbone for outside e-mail or web surfing, but individual users would be unable to tell when they are switching back and forth, he added.
Berge Ayvazian, senior researcher with the Yankee Group, said Sprint's timing is good, given that US government agencies are becoming increasingly aware of security issues.
The Sprint project is the first such private IP network aimed at government users, Ayvazian believed, and he predicted that customers would convert from other private network services that do not use IP, such as frame-relay networks.
Lunceford talked up the efficiency and ease of use for IP-based networks as opposed to frame-relay networks or ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) networks.
"The beauty is IP communicates with everything," Lunceford said. "A concern with going to an IP network is the connection to a public IP network. This is the best of both worlds."
Ayvazian noted that the cost to Sprint was minimal because the company is using Cisco gear recycled from its ION (Integrated On-Demand Network) broadband service, aborted in late 2002.
"We already have the expertise to put the network in place and keep it maintained," Luceford said. "We were able to do this relatively inexpensively."
The private network will offer most services available on SprintLink, such as virtual Lan, virtual private networks, and voice over IP, but not outside e-mail and internet access, Lunceford said.