Computerworld

International News Briefs: Altavista Blames BT

SAN FRANCISCO (09/01/2000) - CANADIAN COMBO: Telus announced it will pay $4.5 billion for wireless carrier Clearnet Communications Inc. to create Canada's largest mobile-phone company. The joint company would have projected annual revenues of about $1 billion. Only 24 percent of Canadians own mobile phones, compared with 40 percent of the population in parts of Asia and Europe.

ALTAVISTA COMES CLEAN: AltaVista Co. admitted that its offer for flat-rate Internet access in the U.K. is dead. When it was announced in March, the offer prompted a flurry of price cutting by British Internet service providers. AltaVista U.K. initially claimed that 90,000 customers would be on the flat-rate plan by the end of July. But CEO Andy Mitchell now says the service never reached a single customer. He blamed British Telecommunications PLC, saying it hadn't offered a competitive enough wholesale package to ISPs using its network.

LOVE BUG FLIES AWAY: Due to a lack of applicable laws and evidence, the Philippine Department of Justice dropped all charges against a Manila college student accused of releasing the Love Bug computer virus that crippled networks worldwide in May. The Philippine government passed its first e-commerce and computer law in June, but the law can't be applied retroactively to the Love Bug virus. Police had been trying to charge computer student Onel de Guzman with creating the virus under a related crime of credit card fraud, but the Department of Justice dismissed the move.

FREE TO SURF IN A BIRDCAGE: Chinese President Jiang Zemin enthusiastically declared support for the Internet in a speech delivered to a conference of international entrepreneurs broadcast on domestic television. While he acknowledged the importance of developing the Internet to transform China, he also commented on the need to protect against the spread of "harmful" information on the Net. Jiang's comments come as the Communist Party moves to exert control over the Internet in China by shutting down Internet sites and arresting "Web dissidents."

HUTCHISON BLINKS: Hutchison Whampoa backed out of its E-Plus Hutchison joint venture with Dutch telco KPN Mobile just after E-Plus secured one of Germany's coveted third-generation wireless licenses. The German license deal was the first joint bid between Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and KPN Mobile since the two companies announced a three-way alliance in July to work with Japan's NTT DoCoMo in securing and operating 3G services in major European markets. The $7.7 billion bid was more than Hutchison says it expected to pay. NTT DoCoMo and KPN now have to split the bill two ways.

LAST-MINUTE FRENCH CONNECTION: British travel site Lastminute.com paid about $88.5 million in cash and stock to acquire travel outfit Degriftour Group, France's largest e-commerce outfit. That's nearly half of the $170 million the company raised in its blockbuster IPO in March, just before stock markets tanked.

NORWAY GOES ITS OWN WAY: Seven companies have applied for four licenses to launch the next generation of mobile phones in Norway. The government decided to not hold an auction like those that resulted in billions of dollars in revenue for the governments in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. Instead, it set a price of $11 million plus $2 million per year for each license. The government will determine the recipients later this year.

MEXICO UNPLUGGED: Ericsson and Telcel, Mexico's leading wireless operator, announced an agreement that may lead to deployment of third-generation mobile communications in Mexico sometime in the next two years. The 3G technology promises to offer Internet access at higher speeds than the wireless application protocol currently being rolled out in Latin America.

(Edited by Greg Dalton.)