Alltel Information Services Inc. is offering a new service that shores up banks' branch-to-branch communications without necessitating investment in new systems.

The service, to be called Net Know How, will focus exclusively on improving the performance and configuration of Cisco-based network router systems. It is scheduled to be launched today through Alltel's Enterprise Network Services consulting group in Dallas.

Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., controls more than two-thirds of the market for communications systems that link wide-area computer networks. Banks have found them especially useful in linking branch systems, said Deborah Mielke, director of services management for Enterprise.

"As banks have gotten more widely dispersed-like Citicorp-they are relying on networks to run everything," she said.

She added that wide-area networks can be very difficult to manage. "Network managers are dealing with the day-to-day problems; they don't have time to look at the big picture."

As part of the new service, Alltel consultants will analyze elements of a network, including connectivity and routing protocols. They then will recommend new configurations to improve the performance and availability of a network.

"There is no need to scrap the equipment," said Ms. Mielke. "Our goal is to show customers how to improve how it's used."

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