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ATMnet strengthens its backbone

ATMnet will extend its Southern California ATM backbone to the San Francisco area.

Network service company ATMnet is getting ready to extend its Southern California ATM backbone to the San Francisco Bay Area as part of a plan to eventually sell access directly to users, going head to head with MCI Communications, Sprint, Netcom, and other national Internet providers.

ATMnet now sells networking equipment to heavy users, such as Internet service providers and corporations with extensive intranets. The company is now in the process of expanding its 155-mbps ATM backbone to the Bay Area by the end of June and up the East Coast corridor via a coast-to-coast link by the third quarter this year, according to company officials.

ATM, or asynchronous transfer mode, speeds Internet traffic by sending information in small cells instead of larger packets and by using silicon switches instead of routers. ATMnet's Southern California backbone already serves 12 service providers, as well as large corporate intranets like GTE and Lockheed Martin.

But the company wants to move out from behind the scenes, according to ATMnet vice president and COO Tom Lettington. "We want to get our membership card punched before they stop giving them out altogether," Lettington said, referring to projections that the overall number of ISPs are going to shrink rapidly in the coming months.

But ATMnet will have to compete with new ways of providing bandwidth, as well as with existing ISPs.In August, AT&T's Paradyne unit expects to ship products based on ADSL (Adaptive Digital Subscriber Line) technology, which uses existing telephone lines to transmit voice and data up to 400 times faster than a 14.4-kbps modem, according to a Reuters news service report. The GlobeSpan ADSL technology will initially transmit data downstream to the user at rates up to 2.3 mbps and upstream from the desktop to the network at up to 1 mbps, according to Reuters news service.