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UUNet streams into multicasting

WorldCom's ISP subsidiary UUNet is expected to unveil a service that lets one sender transmit large amounts of information to many users at once.

    Targeting online news services and real-time broadcasters, WorldCom's (WCOM) Internet access company, UUNet, announced a new service today that lets content providers send large packets of data to thousands of Net users at once.

    Dubbed UUCast, the "multicast" service makes it possible for audio, text, and video to be sent to multiple users in one stream. Usually, large amounts of information and multimedia would be sent in individual streams to each recipient, which can mean higher costs in time and money. UUNet says its new service can send data simultaneously to up to 250,000 users.

    "Providers no longer have to be victims of their own success," Alan Taffel, UUNet's vice president of marketing and business development, said in a statement. "There is no longer a relationship between the number of users and the amount of bandwidth a provider needs to buy. UUCast eliminates those barriers. Now providers can select bandwidth based exclusively on the type of information they deliver."

    Customers can buy UUNet's multicast services in stream sizes ranging from 5 kbps for $2,200 per month or 25 kbps for $10,000 a month. The service requires a 56-kbps or 128-kbps dedicated connection and is based on standard multicast protocols developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force.

    CNN Interactive, Microsoft Network, and AudioNet have signed on to use the service, UUNet said today. CNN Interactive, for example, has access to 200 hours of video each day and will use UUCast to send more live video to its visitors, according to a spokesman.

    The service will be targeted at the business market, continuing WorldCom's strategy for UUNet. WorldCom also has the backbone to support such a service, which was boosted by its joint deal with America Online to acquire CompuServe. Under the buyout terms, WorldCom obtained CompuServe's network services division, one of the largest data communications networks, and AOL's ANS Communications, which is another large network. (See related story)

    "They have the capability already to do it," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects in Washington, D.C. "It's an effective means to deliver over the Internet large amounts of data to people...The sender doesn't send a copy to 1,000 places; he sends it once and the network takes care of delivering it to those 1,000 places."

    Dzubeck added that multicasting is an efficient way for companies to do push technology, referring to the Internet broadcasting technology which sends requested information, such as news headlines, to users.

    "All the major backbone providers have been making noise about [multicasting]," said Abhishek Gami, a Nesbitt Burns Securities analyst. "But in terms of real marketability, multicasting is still a niche product."

    Reuters contributed to this report.