MFS calls British telephone users

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The Independent Online
THE US telecommunications company MFS plans to offer telephone services in most big British cities within three years.

The company, which has already begun building a fibre-optic network in London, is likely to have to spend dollars 200m ( pounds 129m) to fulfil its expansion plans.

MFS is one of the latest companies to be awarded a full national public telephone licence in competition with Mercury and BT.

The company's strategy is to target business customers and build its own network direct to the users' premises rather than rely on lines leased from BT or Mercury.

Michael Storey, chief executive of MFS Communications in the UK, said: 'We need end-to-end control so that the quality and ability to respond to customers' needs is not in the hands of anyone else.' He said the company had no plans to offer telephone services to domestic customers.

MFS launched its London service in May and has 86 customers, none of which it will name. The network stretches from east of Docklands to the City and Westminster and will expand westwards to Kensington and Chelsea and beyond. The investment this year is likely to be at least pounds 30m.

Last week MFS launched a telecommunications service for businesses in Frankfurt and announced its intention to begin operations in Paris in September. Other cities, including Amsterdam and Milan, may follow over the next year or two.

Initially, services in European countries other than Britain will be limited to data and private leased lines. The rate of expansion on the Continent depends on the pace of liberalisation in other European countries.

Although full liberalisation of public voice services in European Union countries is not due until 1998, Mr Storey is confident that some governments will introduce competition before that date.

In the US, MFS has built and linked together telephone networks in 32 cities, all serving businesses and based on direct connections to customers.

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