Bell Atlantic Plans to Beef Up Data Services

FRAZIER, PA. (05/04/2000) - Look for Bell Atlantic Corp.'s data division to team with or buy smaller firms to increase its network security services by summer.

"We may not do an acquisition in that time frame, but I would like to have it narrowed down to three to five key partners," says Ted Rafetto, president of Bell Atlantic's Data Services.

Bell Atlantic wants to be able to sell customers packages of network services so they don't have to piece together what they need from multiple vendors.

Security services range from a forensic examination of security breaches with an eye toward making networks more secure to backing up data in secure facilities.

"For example, we could connect with a customer server and back it up off-site at a secure site. That's a complement to Bell Atlantic [transport services]," Rafetto says. The service would be sold as a Bell Atlantic offering, and customers would receive a Bell Atlantic bill.

Bell Atlantic has begun to narrow the field of potential acquisition targets.

"We have a couple of companies we are talking to right now. If we could find one with the right profile and the right culture, it would make some sense [to buy]," he says. In addition, Bell Atlantic plans to soon announce a service that would hook up customers' home offices to corporate networks so corporate IT staffs don't have to handle it, Rafetto says.

By year-end, the company also plans to have a business-class digital subscriber line service that would offer bandwidth guarantees, not the best-effort residential DSL services available now. In addition, customers could buy higher speed DSL connections and tie them to corporate IP, frame relay or ATM nets.

The DSL service would be backed by service-level agreements, he says.

The customer sites would be fed by ATM over DSL to enable quality-of-service levels for different types of traffic.

Rafetto says Bell Atlantic will explore teaming with a carrier specializing in DSL, such as Covad or Northpoint, to deliver the business-class service. "We're working on a number of alternatives to get into the marketplace" he says.

The company will roll out managed private line, frame relay and ATM services starting in July.

Bell Atlantic will also start to give customers views into Bell Atlantic's network so customers can track how well their individual applications perform on the network.

By this summer, Bell Atlantic hopes its pending merger with GTE will be complete, which would bring Bell Atlantic two network management centers outside Atlanta to augment its current sites.

In addition, GTE brings a management center in Austin, Texas, that manages customer networks down to the desktop. Bell Atlantic was headed in that direction, but has not set up such a center. "With the deal closed, we may immediately begin to offer those services," Rafetto says.

The data division, which is 2 years old, was made up of the company's long-distance network and an ISP backbone. It also included a network integration unit. Since then the company has bought a network integration business in Washington, D.C. The company also bought a call-center business to Web-enable call centers.

The data division embraces alliances with smaller companies because they bring agility and energy to the massive regional Bell operating company.

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