BT and AT&T to invest £1.25bn in Net data centres

Concert and its two owners, British Telecom and AT&T, yesterday committed £1.25bn to developing a network of 44 internet data centres round the world in the next three years.

The investment will link the networks of AT&T and BT with the internet protocol network Concert is building to deliver high-speed, seamless data services to multi-national corporations. The centres - six to be based in Britain - will offer Web hosting and networking services to companies from start-up dot.coms to traditional businesses moving on-line.

Rick Roscitt, president of AT&T business services, said: "This shows very serious intent to be the strongest and broadest player in the internet data centre environment on a global basis."

The companies plan to expand their global platform from the 14 Net data centres open in the US, Britain and Europe. The UK centres are in Birmingham, Cardiff, Bletchley and St Albans, and there are plans to add two in the London area.

In total, the companies will open three million square feet of space in existing or new facilities. About 30 centres will be open by year-end, and the entire project should be completed within three years. The three companies already host 8,000 business customers.

The investment comes as telecoms companies worldwide gear up for the continuing explosive growth in the internet. Web hosting, expected to be worth £2bn this year, is forecast to be a £10bn market by 2004.

Recently BT has made substantial revenue gains from demand growth for Web access and hosting, helping to offset regulatory price cuts on voice calls and strong competition for corporate telecoms services.

Although BT, AT&T and Concert trail competitors such as MCI WorldCom in the amount of internet traffic they carry, the Anglo-US partnership has a broader international network than its rivals. The Concert joint venture's internet protocol network backbone covers 21 cities in 17 countries.

BT also announced that Vernon Irvin, formerly senior vice-president of worldwide internet marketing, will become president of Web hosting operations.

Among its initiatives, AT&T has launched its Ecosystem network platform for internet application service providers, drawing in networking and software specialists such as Cisco Systems, IBM and Sun Microsystems. BT and Concert have also established alliances with applications providers such as CommerceOne, an internet trading hub software maker, and Microsoft. In Britain, BT has helped develop new applications for G-Wizz, Granada's Net portal, and for Shell and Chartered Trust.

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