Web connections you can adjust

Money saver? Intelli- Space's adjustable bandwidth allows a company to raise or lower its Internet connection throughput, depending on the task at hand.

January 06, 2001|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

In a tiny room in a Baltimore office building sits the skeleton of what will soon be racks of computer equipment - devices a New York company plans to use to connect many of the region's buildings to the Internet this year.

"By year's end, we would like to have 120 to 150 buildings under contract," said Thomas O'Neil, a vice president and general manager at IntelliSpace Inc.

IntelliSpace provides Internet access to commercial buildings. The company, with headquarters in New York, also has offices in Boston, Atlanta, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington. The Baltimore office opened in June.

By Monday, IntelliSpace is expected to have its first building in the region set up for Internet access: Oella Mill in Ellicott City.

"They've got some fancy boxes in our telephone cabinet and we've run some cables back to a company that will be their first customer," said Peter Ruff, an owner of Oella Mill.

IntelliSpace's hallmark is that it allows customers to adjust the amount of bandwidth that comes into their offices. That means a company that uses the Internet on most days but wants to have a teleconference one day can request their capacity be cranked up just for that day, which saves the customer money.

"They don't always need more," O'Neil said. "But they may need more a couple of times a week, and that's where it pays off."

But IntelliSpace isn't the only company to offer adjustable bandwidth.

Alex Benik, a fiber-optics analyst at the Yankee Group in San Francisco, said a handful of new carriers are aggressively pushing the concept.

Beside IntelliSpace, other better-known companies offering adjustable bandwidth are San Francisco-based Yipes Communications Inc. and Denver-based Telseon Inc., Benik said.

"This kind of tunable bandwidth has always been kind of the Holy Grail to some extent," Benik said, "and then you give control of this to your customers."

O'Neil said only about 5 percent of IntelliSpace's customers regularly scale their service.

"What IntelliSpace and Yipes do is say, `Hey, we're not going to make you stay in that rigid thing. You can tune up bandwidth,' " Benik said. "Also what they're doing is giving the end-user some control."

Here's how it's done:

IntelliSpace puts a router - or a small computer-like box that tells information where to go - in each of its customers' buildings, and any business that wants Internet service can pay to plug into that router.

The routers are connected through either copper or fiber-optic wire to that tiny room in the Baltimore office, or similar offices in Washington, which are filled with even more routers.

Those routers then connect the customer to the Internet, where IntelliSpace's New York office can hook in and adjust how much capacity - or bandwidth - each office receives.

When a building is hooked up to the router in Baltimore and wired for Internet access, it is said to be "lit."

"We have in the building a lot of tenants who do a lot of Internet functions," said Ruff, the owner of Oella Mill. "Those people all require high-speed Internet connections, and we just think it improves what is otherwise a very old and ancient building."

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