MCI launches new service-level agreements

MCI has announced new service-level agreements for internet service performance in a move aimed at giving business customers...

MCI has announced new service-level agreements for internet service performance aimed at giving business customers added confidence in using internet protocol networks.

The new service levels increase performance thresholds and provide new guarantees for IP traffic travelling between global business centres, said MCI's Ralph Montfort, director of Internet Access Services.

Specifically, guarantees of latency (defined by MCI as the speed at which traffic traverses its global backbone) are reduced throughout 11 different regions, dropping from 55 milliseconds to 45 milliseconds in North America and from 55 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds in Europe.

Internet service is also now guaranteed to be 100% available if the service is ordered and provisioned by MCI.

Steven Harris an analyst at IDC said that availability guarantee is important, especially since it includes the local loop - the last stretch of cable into an office - and is backed by a customer credit that is offered proactively. That means a customer does not have to complain to get the credit.

"A proactive credit is very unusual," he said. "Carriers tend not to give proactive credits to save money."

MCI said it is offering one day of credit for each hour of outage.

In general, SLAs are wordy contracts full of phrases that are subject to misinterpretation, Harris said, and large business customers must watch their SLAs carefully because they sometimes spend millions of dollars annually on internet services.

"SLAs are just an awful area that carriers are trying to improve," Harris added. "Sometimes it comes down to what a single word means and in the nitty-gritty they are mostly pretty pathetic."

MCI deserves credit for trying to improve its SLAs, which could help the carrier as it tries to improve its market position. MCI lost about 28% in business IP revenue in 2003 as it emerged from bankruptcy protection, he said.

Matt Hamblen writes for Computerworld

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