KPNQwest network switches off and on again

The abandoned network of bankrupt KPNQwest NV's went online again Thursday after staff first left it in limbo late last week and shut it down Wednesday.

"The liquidators have apparently requested for a small skeleton staff to be placed in the network operations center," KPN spokesman Bram Oudshoorn said on Thursday. KPN is one of KPNQwest's co-founders and was a large customer before KPNQwest was declared bankrupt in late May and users abandoned the network.

A group of phone companies led by KPN paid to keep the KPNQwest network up for part of June and three weeks into July. The funding ended last Friday, when staff at the network operations center in The Hague, Netherlands, walked out, but left the network running. It was shut down Wednesday, only to be turned on again a day later. Chunks of the KPNQwest network have been sold off at fire-sale prices since the bankruptcy. KPN also of The Hague, has bid on part of the network that runs through the northwest of Europe. The bid is for an intact network, which may explain why the liquidators opted to turn the lights back on at KPNQwest, Oudshoorn said.

Earlier this month, KPNQwest employees pulled the plug on the Ebone network, which was run from Brussels and stood independent from the rest of the KPNQwest network, which is managed from The Hague. Most of Ebone's assets have since been acquired by privately held Interoute Communications of London.

Talks on the sale of remaining parts of the KPNQwest network continue, but insiders don't expect a deal to be announced soon. With the customers gone, there is no reason to do a quick deal, a person close to the negotiations said.

KPNQwest's network was once Europe's largest with 25,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable spanning 18 countries. Customers were given about six weeks to find an alternative service provider, which KPNQwest even advised them to do.

KPNQwest's liquidators could not immediately be reached for comment.

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