The digital subscriber line corpse isn't even cold yet, and Wall Street is already revving up the next big technology to breathe life back into the business of competing with the phone monopolies.
Gigabit Ethernet is the access technology of the future. It's a simple as pie, and it will cut your network costs by 75%. It can walk and chew gum simultaneously. It will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Or so the hyperbole would have it.
Ready to invest in these service providers? Forget it. You can't through the stock market, at least not yet.
Several companies are leading the gigabit Ethernet service revolution. The top few include
Gigabit Ethernet, adoringly called GigE, is a 29-year-old computer cabling technology now ubiquitous in the networked PC age. Gigabit refers to the amount of freight that can be shipped. Ethernet is the railroad the freight is hauled on.
Yipes is one of the pioneers at delivering super-fast connections to businesses using Ethernet as the last mile connection to data or hosting centers. The San Francisco-based company was founded by a collection of former
execs and Baby Bell defectors, and has received $291 million in private funding.
Cogent has national network ambitions and leases fiber optic capacity from companies such as
. Cogent has won considerable "mindshare" with its improbable-sounding sales pitch to provide Net connections at speeds 100 times faster than conventional T-1 data lines -- for the same price, no less. Cogent was founded in Washington, D.C., two years ago by a local real estate developer.
Telseon uses GigE principally in cities where it acts as a speedy distributor, connecting various data centers. While the Englewood, Colo., upstart avoids the headaches of last-mile access and the haggling over equipment space with the Bells, its fortunes are tied to
soon-to-be-dismantled customers such as
( NBCI). Telseon's brass is a collection of competitive local exchange carrier, or CLEC, veterans,
notably including two execs (Mike McHale, the chief operating officer, and Sean Whelan, the vice president for strategic alliances) from
The presumed advantage of Ethernet is that it can essentially stretch the cheap and reliable computer network out to meet the Internet's fiber optic backbone. Where this is possible, it helps eliminate the need for intermediate layers of gear using asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, frame relay, and synchronous optical network, or SONET, protocols.
In other words, a solution
extolled by people such as
CEO Gordon Stitt that acts as the glue for a network.
But as critics point out, SONET- and ATM-based services are up and serving customers, and not likely to go away anytime soon. And even the finest tech solutions must answer to the spending gods -- and as we continue to see, hardly any service or equipment business has been immune to cost-cutting.
Yet clearly, as DSL-burned investors know all too well, the promise of new, faster, cheaper technologies hold no guarantee of delivery or business success. Therefore, Ethernet risks being DSL's second coming if management teams learned nothing from recent history.