MCI WorldCom, Sprint Claims Doubted

WASHINGTON (04/03/2000) - Industry analysts are questioning a report about the enterprise network market submitted by MCI WorldCom Inc. and Sprint Corp. to government regulators in support of their proposed merger.

In one part of a massive merger document delivered to the Federal Communications Commission March 20, the two carriers contend that almost a dozen U.S. carriers are now offering complete voice and data services to "the larger business market." But among the carriers they cite are Williams Communications and Level 3 Communications, two wholesale providers of carrier bandwidth that several analysts told Network World rarely appear on users' requests for proposal (RFP). Analysts also questioned the service range, geographic coverage and ability to respond to bids of several others on the list, which MCI WorldCom and Sprint say are ready to provide robust competition to AT&T Corp. and a newly merged WorldCom conglomerate.

In the report, the merger partners also cite Qwest Communications, Global Crossing, Broadwing, Cable & Wireless and GTE as large-business carriers. They added Bell Atlantic for New York state, where it recently began long-distance service.

The report claims the carriers mentioned generally provide at least seven core enterprise services - frame relay, ATM, private lines, Internet access, IP virtual private networks, outbound voice and advanced 800 routing for call centers. But Richard Kuehn, president of RAK Associates in Cleveland and a consultant to users on telecom RFPs, says the picture is unrealistic. "I've only ever seen one proposal from Level 3, and it was one year ago and it was totally inadequate," Kuehn says.

He also questions the claim that Qwest provides sophisticated 800 routing. He says Qwest hasn't been able to provide "take-back and transfer" - an ability commonly requested by call center managers to have the phone network take back an 800 call and transfer it to another call center if agents are busy.

Geographic coverage has also tripped up many of the listed companies on national bids. On one recent 3,000-site proposal, "the bid response was terrible" from some carriers because they lack coverage, Kuehn says.

MCI WorldCom and Sprint officials attending a press conference to present the merger documents said it was fair to include wholesale carriers because business users could buy their services from resellers. Indeed, the documents presented to the FCC were worded carefully to say the cited carriers offer "a wide range of advanced telecommunications services" that are "typically sought by larger business customers" without stating that there were no middlemen.

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