Energis doubles spending to pounds 200m in drive into telecoms

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ENERGIS, the telecommunications subsidiary of the National Grid Company, will announce this week that it is doubling its rate of investment to pounds 200m over the next year, in a drive to become the third telecoms force in the UK behind British Telecommunications and Mercury, writes Mary Fagan.

The company is also thought to be talking to three potential equity partners from the US to help fund its expansion. These are likely to include the telecommunications giants AT&T and Sprint.

Within 12 months Energis, whose chairman is Gordon Owen, former group managing director of Cable & Wireless and creator of Mercury, C&W's subsidiary, expects that 70 per cent of the UK population will be able to gain access to its new service.

The NGC is installing fibre-optic cable for Energis at the rate of 75 kilometres a week, using a technique that wraps the cable around electricity transmission wires.

At the same time the privatised regional electricity companies, which own the NGC, have agreed to install fibre in their local franchise areas, which could connect customers to the Energis national telephone network.

Around half of the regional electricity companies are expected to market the Energis telecommunications service, billing customers and collecting the money in return for a fee.

Those customers who want to access the Energis network using BT's local wires will be able to do so by dialling a special code.