WorldCom Bolsters International Network Services

FRAMINGHAM (07/26/2000) - WorldCom Inc. is planting new stakes in foreign soil as it expands its ATM, frame relay and private-line networks.

By the end of 2000, WorldCom will offer ATM services in 22 countries, frame relay in 44 and dedicated private line in 26, says Jim DeMerlis, vice president of product marketing at WorldCom. At the end of last year, WorldCom was offering ATM services in 13 countries, frame relay in 22 and dedicated private line in 19.

WorldCom's international data network expansion is part of the company's US$7 billion attempt to expand its data, fixed wireless and Internet networks this year. The company's international expansion will let business users buy data services that run over the WorldCom fiber-optic network in more than 44 countries.

"Owning your own local and long-haul infrastructure is a key advantage for service providers and end users," says Joanne Makris, a program manager at Boston consulting firm The Yankee Group. Business users can expect more stringent service-level guarantees from providers that own fiber networks, she says, because ownership eliminates service providers' dependency on local phone companies or post, telegraph and telephone administrations to determine network performance. "Our strategy is to build our own networks overseas and not be reliant on alliances or agreements with third parties," DeMerlis says. WorldCom will offer the same data and voice services it offers in the U.S. to customers overseas, he adds. The company is especially focusing on integrated services such as its OnNet offering, which lets business users send voice and data traffic over a single connection.

WorldCom is deploying Lucent's B-STDX Multiservice Frame Relay switches and Cisco's BPX ATM switches throughout its international networks. But DeMerlis would not quantify how many switches are being deployed this year.

WorldCom has a leg up on some domestic competitors, such as AT&T and Sprint, because it owns fiber networks in many countries. AT&T has a solid alliance with British Telecom, which may prove very successful over time, The Yankee Group's Makris says. And Sprint is now trying to build its own international nets overseas since it separated from the Global One joint venture.

But WorldCom still has to compete with multinational service providers, such as Equant and Infonet, which today have a greater geographic reach. In fact, Equant has been offering its customers integrated voice and data over IP services in 54 countries since March. Equant enhanced the service last week by announcing support for voice calls that terminate on the public switched telephone network (see www.nwfusion.com, DocFinder: 9147).

WorldCom's international expansion is expected to be complete by year-end with integration services to soon follow, DeMerlis says.

WorldCom: www.wcom.com.

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