Time Warner Telecom shakes off connection to cable industry

April 30, 2004

Time Warner Telecom (TWT) is just that-a telecommunications firm. Its services are wide bandwidth, high-speed data transmission, not premium television channels like its namesake. And TWT's approach to the data services is right up radiology's

Time Warner Telecom (TWT) is just that-a telecommunications firm. Its services are wide bandwidth, high-speed data transmission, not premium television channels like its namesake. And TWT's approach to the data services is right up radiology's alley.

TWT provides voice, image, and other data transmission through 18,000 miles of optical fiber. Having a fiber infrastructure provides users the flexibility of starting small and going big whenever it suits them. The jump from 15 megabits/second to 25 Mbps or beyond is just a phone call away, as network managers need only to make more of the pipeline available to their client.

The fiber backbone of the TWT network can handle up to 1000 Mbps, according to the company. This capacity is well beyond current needs in radiology, but those needs are constantly expanding. The next generation of 32-, 40-, and 64-slice scanners will place an enormous burden on networks. Applications such as 3D modeling are already burdening competing networks, many of which are limited to 45 Mbps.

Making the TWT solution more appealing is its use of Ethernet technology. Many healthcare providers use Ethernet within their institutions. Embedding the technology in the TWT native local area networks allows multiple site hookups with relative ease.

"Our market strategy is to provide a skilled sales and technical force that is actively segmenting and searching for healthcare and hospital applications," said Robert G. Meldrum, senior director for marketing communications at TWT, based in Littleton, CO.

Not all TWT clients are in radiology or even medicine. The company serves a wide range of businesses, both for-profit and nonprofit. Many are in the financial community, but education is exerting an increasing demand, as is healthcare. Customers buy local telephone, long distance, Internet e-mail, and high-throughput data transfer services. All are done over a single network. Medical clients usually order several of these. When they do, teleradiology puts the biggest demand on the network.

"Medical groups have significant requirements for bandwidth and speed," Meldrum said. "They are looking for providers who can meet those needs."

Time Warner Telecom began in 1993 as a joint venture with Time Warner Cable. The company broke off the partnership four years later to focus on business communications. Since then, healthcare-particularly teleradiology-has become a major driver, with its need to handle large imaging files, an expanding digital medical record, and government-mandated privacy requirements.

TWT is going up against other major network providers, including Verizon and SBC Communications. But the company, whose name is associated more with cable than telecom, is doing well. It serves more than 470 healthcare organizations, including integrated healthcare providers, health insurers, managed-care organizations, medical laboratories, and medical imaging businesses, according to Graham Taylor, TWT senior vice president of marketing. Early this year, TWT added two radiology practices and a major hospital to its rapidly growing base of clients.

Teleradiology clients typically have access to a single 100-Mbps pipeline, but they generally use only a portion of it. This preserves bandwidth for future upgrades. If demand eventually outstrips the 100 Mbps, more such pipelines can be installed.

The company exercises total control over its networks, including data switches. This makes for a very responsive service, Taylor said. The system also provides automatic "fail-over" functionality-the ability to reroute and manage data to minimize or prevent a network crash, a capability based on the company's integration of the synchronous optical network standard.

This is exactly what radiology needs, according to Meldrum.

"Having a fiber infrastructure that is robust-that has redundancies built in-is very appealing, because reliability for them is especially critical," he said.