Global One Swimming Upstream

Two or three management layers down from the chaotic top tier of Sprint's Global One venture, company officials are continuing to work hard to improve processes, systems and services.

The operations officials are rolling out Global One's frame relay, ATM and IP services to an increasing number of countries even as the company's ownership -- Sprint plus two European carriers -- continues to roil in controversy.

The latest blow: the resignation of long-time Sprint executive Gary Forsee as Global One CEO barely one year after he took the job as part of a management shake-up. That follows a lawsuit filed by one of the European partners, France Telecom, against the other -- Deutsche Telekom -- for breaching a related partnership contract.

Analysts agree that Global One is unlikely to simply collapse because, after many missteps, it has finally installed a true global network and gathered a strong list of multinational customers, including NATO. The venture has conceded that it will continue to lose money until 2001. But it has recently decided to move away from renting international circuits from other carriers and instead has been obtaining facilities-based licenses as a common carrier wherever possible.

In fact, Global One is one of the companies taking the most advantage of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) basic agreement on telecommunications that took effect in January 1998. Under the WTO framework, Global One has obtained licenses in previously monopoly-dominated markets such as Brazil and Israel, with more to come. It has also been buying exclusive rights to portions of overseas cable capacity.

"Previously almost all of our capacity was leased," says Rick Williams, Global One's senior vice president for operations. "By 2000 or 2001, almost all will be owned by us." As a result, network transmission costs are rising much slower than Global One's increase in user traffic.

The global Nortel network now encompasses 170 nodes in 91 cities in 38 countries. By year-end it should total 240 nodes in 110 cities in 48 countries. Global One maintains a "next-generation program office" of about 100 people that does nothing but move customers from older platforms to the global ATM network on a customer-specific basis, Williams says.

Global One admits it sells less native IP service than frame relay and ATM. But it promises a new service this fall - to be called Global IP Plus - that will offer yet-to-be-defined quality-of-service metrics on a Cisco-based network internally rolling out under the name "AllianceNet."

Global One is also in the process of consolidating its 26 customer-support call centers down to three by the end of the month. The firm says it supports 15 languages out of these centers even though all three are in English-speaking locales -- Reston, Virginia, London and Sydney, Australia. Operations officials say they began using an automated remote-diagnostics system in February 1998 that has reduced the mean time to repair to less than four hours for data networks and five hours for voice.

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