Capellas: Convergence is key for MCI

"It ain't over til it's over." The phrase made famous by Yogi Berra, delivered live by the U.S. baseball great himself remotely via a video application during the opening CeBIT keynote speech by MCI Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Michael Capellas, punctuated one of the executive's key points: The rebranded company formerly known as WorldCom is surviving its bankruptcy and is a major player in the global delivery of converged voice and data services.

Capellas got a laugh from the audience at the trade show taking place until Friday in New York when he introduced the phrase saying, "This is the best piece of advice I ever got .... on behalf of MCI'ers everywhere." But the underlying point was dead serious. MCI is positioned to deliver the promise of converged services over a worldwide IP (Internet Protocol) backbone network, Capellas said.

"Now that we've had this explosion in technology how do all the pieces come together?" Capellas said. "The number-one thing on all our agendas is how do we achieve interoperability ... this is where productivity comes from."

The explosion in the use of mobile communications is both the boon and bane of business professionals, since while portable devices allow people to be connected to telecommunications networks continuously, managing multiple applications, computers and handsets can be daunting, he said.

However, interoperability standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) are permitting data to be shared among applications and devices that reside anywhere on the Internet, he said.

"Voice messages can be wrapped in XML and delivered into applications," he said, demonstrating an MCI Advantage voice portal application to prove his point.

With MCI Advantage, users can, for example, direct mobile phone and office phone messages to be delivered as text messages to a central inbox in MCI Advantage. Conversely, text messages can be converted to voice mail and accessed through a mobile phone.

MCI is well-positioned to deliver such services, with more than 3,500 points-of-presence throughout the world in 140 countries and 2,600 cities, Capellas said. Driving home the point that MCI is also reliable, Capellas cited U.S. Federal Communications Commission figures showing that MCI had fewer network failures than any other major carrier in 2002.

The convergence theme was also central to MCI's announcement Wednesday morning of an IP-based VPN (virtual private network) remote access service, designed to let business travelers connect to their corporate networks via the Internet.

Though Capellas did not discuss the new offering in his keynote speech, the new service is based on the company's Secure Interworking Gateway (SIG), and is designed to let companies move to an IP-based networking environment using current frame relay and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) networks, according to an MCI statement.

At least one audience member thought that MCI will emerge from bankruptcy and remain a major player in global communications.

"They have to get out of the mess they're in and once they do that they should be fine. The fundamental network is sound," said Kothandaraman Sridharan, chief executive officer of consumer electronics manufacturer BPL Systems.

MCI is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after admitting to improper accounting that exceeded US$9 billion. The company expects to emerge from bankruptcy later this year.

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