Magazine article Online

Communication Network Costs - a 1989 Update

Magazine article Online

Communication Network Costs - a 1989 Update

Article excerpt

Data communication charges are still an important factor in online searching costs. For instance, during a recent search of HISTORICAL ABSTRACTS (File 39 on DIALOG), communications charges were 7.4% of the total search cost. While searchers have little control over what online services charge for online search time, the wise use of domestic packet-switching networks can keep telecommunications costs to a minimum. While the days of long waits for the prompt to appear are past, there is still a difference in cost among the domestic packet-switching networks. Online searchers need to be aware of these differences and use the resulting cost savings to their advantage and the advantage of their clients.


Since my last investigation on telecommunication costs (DATABASE, April 1986) several new developments have occurred with the domestic packet-switching networks. One network, UNINET no longer exists; another, TYMNET, has recently (October 1989) been sold to British Telecom by its parent company, McDonnell Douglas. Telenet, which merged with UNINET, is itself a subsidiary of US Sprint.

Telenet and TYMNET have both introduced hardware that will allow 8,000 packets of information to be sent to over 200 different port addresses. Both Telenet and TYMNET have also implemented joint service offerings with the RBOCs. Telenet has contracted a packet interface with BellSouth. TYMNET is developing an interface with Southwestern Bell. And, Telenet is conducting field trials with NYNEX on an Integrated Service Access System (ISAS) to provide low-cost digital services from any existing local telephone line [1,2,31.

DIALNET, Dialog's proprietary network, at present has services in more than 55 major cities in the United States. DIALNET supports Bell 103, Bell 212, and V.22bis dial-up standards at speeds up to 2400 bps. DIALNET offers either dial-up through voice grade lines or direct connect access through X.25 or 3270 bi-synch links. DIALNET can provide X.25 links to a local host computer thereby giving direct access to a local host computer system to host users. Both TYMNET and Telenet offer Bell 103, Bell 212, V.22bis as well as the new V.32 (9600 bps) dial-up lines [4].


Nearly half of the respondents in ONLINE's recent computer survey indicated that they were searching at speeds of 2400 bps, but much searching is still routinely done at 1200 and 300 bps. A few brave souls are now experimenting with 9600 bps V.32 access. Clearly the higher speeds will result in significantly lower costs for remote database searching. For example, text searches at 2400 bps cost an average of 28-cts on all networks while the cost at 1200 bps averages 44-cts, a 37% savings with the faster speed. Possibly one would expect 2400 bps access to be about half the cost of 1200 bps, but this does not appear to true. Nevertheless saving nearly 40% in search telecommunication costs will easily justify the purchase of a 2400 bps modem even for libraries that have a modest searching volume.


Hourly network costs for the three main networks have remained reasonably stable over the past few years. Cost for DIALNET access is $10.00 per hour, Telenet $11.00 per hour, and $12.00 per hour for TYMNET. Charges are the same for both 1200 and 2400 bps access. Additional access to DIALOG is provided by an 800 number and gateways such as Dunsnet (a Dun & Bradstreet gateway) and OCLC LINK.

WHICH SEARCHES THE FASTEST? To test the relative speeds of searching via the several packet-switching networks, a test search was formulated using two search terms in the ONTAP ERIC (File 201) database on DIALOG. ONTAP ERIC was selected because it is cheap, and is a small file with quick system lookup/ response time. The two search terms were combined and printed out in the bibliographic citation (Format 3) and full record (Format 5) text mode. …

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