The competition for high-speed network access across the Southeast became more intense today with BellSouth (NYSE: BLS)announcing that it is extending the reach of its high-speed metropolitan (metro) Ethernet services in North Carolina and Florida.

BellSouth said that metro Ethernet service is now avilable in
Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem as well as many cities in Florida, including Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, and the Miami area.

While Atlanta-based BellSouth has been providing Ethernet services at lower speeds than one gigabit per second (Gbps) for almost 10 years, spokesman Scott Bryan says BellSouth began mass deployment of Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), its next-generation optical technology, on a metro level last October.

“BellSouth’s strategy is to continue to deploy GigE in the metro areas where we see the highest customer demand for the service,” Bryan tells Local Tech Wire. “Although BellSouth has identified many metros throughout the Southeast in which to mass deploy GigE, we can provide the service in any area (of BellSouth’s nine-state region) if a customer requests it.”

As with all BellSouth’s Fast Ethernet services, Bryan says there is a “mileage component” to its GigE service. For that reason, exact pricing is difficult to provide without a specific case, but ballpark figures are as follows: $3,000 for service at a speed of one Gbps, $1,200 for service at 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) and $700 for 10 Mbps service. Payment is made on a monthly recurring charge.

According to the company, its metro Ethernet services provide customers with a clear migration path to the next generation of data
networking while maintaining the Ethernet protocol.

Industry analysts and recent market research depict a dramatic increase in end-user metro data consumption over the next four years. A recent report issued by Infonetics Research shows a 552 percent growth rate for metro data products and estimates customers in the United States and Canada will increase spending from $420 million to $2.7 billion between 2002 and 2006.

“As more and more companies employ IP data transport and utilize bandwidth-intensive applications to build cutting-edge communications networks, BellSouth continues to capitalize on the power of our expansive fiber-based network to provide businesses and institutions with innovative metro data networking solutions,” Mark Kaish, vice president of BellSouth Data Services, said in a statement.

BellSouth’s Gigabit Ethernet and metro Ethernet: