Israeli network firm RAD Data Communications claims to have developed a terminal unit that provides the missing link for asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) services over public networks. RAD, which opened an office in Beijing recently to service its second-largest market, believes its ACE network terminal unit will offer cost-effective monitoring and deployment of ATM bandwidth direct from a backbone operated by a telecom carrier to a customer site. Hongkong Telecom last year chose NEC switching equipment for its high-bandwidth ATM backbone but has only an optical interface at the customer site. ATM technology allows the high-speed transfer of digital video, audio and data information. A fibre interface could feature throughput of 155 megabits per second. A standard dial-up modem now operates at 33.6 kilobits per second. The ACE unit will be demonstrated at the International Telecommunications Union-sponsored Asia Telecom exhibition and conference in Singapore next month. Ilan Seidner, marketing communications manager for RAD in Tel Aviv, said the US$5,000 ACE had been developed after an initial request from German telecommunications giant Siemens to modify an existing workgroup solution RAD had been working on. 'It was something we stumbled on to,' he said. 'It was not so much a product but a concept, so we adapted that for the customer site.' He said RAD's products filled a market in the fledgling ATM service industry not covered by technology firms specialising in ATM backbone and ATM edge switches. 'Companies like GDC, Nortel and Newbridge are doing well in providing backbone switches, 3Com and Fore are specialising in ATM switching for the LAN (local-area network), but we see a clear market need for the customer premises equipment (CPE),' Mr Seidner said. The ACE units help a public ATM network operator cover what is referred to by telecom carriers as 'the last mile'. RAD claims that three big telecom tenders for ATM public network equipment supply in Europe in the past six months seem to have been written especially for the RAD product. The firm is tendering for France Telecom, British Telecom and Portugal Telecom contracts with Siemens. Mr Seidner said telecom carriers could not monitor existing ATM customers traffic flow correctly without an intelligent CPE unit at the network and customer site. He said edge switches, which cost about US$20,000 to $50,000, were too expensive to justify in many cases. The firm referred to research pointing to ATM service price reductions and a boom in the CPE market.