The QOS Conundrum
by Joanie Wexler

Published April 2001





When it comes to network service quality there's some good news: Service-level agreements (SLAs) for packet networks are getting more robust. Many carriers are adding new SLA metrics to their packet network service offerings, for example, or tightening their existing SLA guarantees. Most offer some measure of commitment on the following network variables: availability, latency, jitter, packet loss and mean time to repair (MTTR). And they offer them across a mix of packet services, including IP virtual private networks (IP VPNs), frame relay and ATM.


Overall, then—at least on paper—network service quality seems to be improving.


Where there is the least activity, however, is in the area of differentiated IP service classes, based on prioritization among traffic flows. With the fervent promotion of IP as the ultimate convergence protocol for the past several years, the industry has long been expecting to see the emergence of ATM-like classes of service (COS) accompanying IP offerings, in private IP-VPN services and, eventually, public Internet services. However, these have not materialized—even though COS have become available for frame relay, and carriers such as AT&T and WorldCom have made voice-over-IP (VOIP) retail business service announcements.


For differentiated IP services to materialize technical and business peering and settlements issues must be overcome through and offer value, the service providers will have to figure out how to price services attractively while still enabling themselves to turn a profit. Similarly, the efforts of industry alliances, standards groups and new companies serving as ISP-agnostic third parties.



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