No longer a David facing Goliath

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NEW YORK - BT's chosen partner in its quest for world telecoms dominance, MCI, has taken just two decades to capture an 18 per cent share of America's dollars 60bn-a-year long-distance telephone market, writes Michael Marray.

Starting from scratch in the 1970s, MCI encountered fierce opposition and prolonged court battles with AT&T, then the monopoly provider of US long-distance telephone services. The bitter rivalry with AT&T still continues but, with 1992 revenues of dollars 10.6bn, MCI is no longer David versus AT&T's Goliath.

The BT-MCI joint venture signals a new phase of the battle to win the lucrative accounts of international companies wishing to link their offices around the world.

MCI has already made some inroads into this sector and recently announced a deal under which it will link the worldwide trading rooms of JP Morgan, the US bank, with voice and data communications.

AT&T is working along similar lines and last week announced the formation of a global network for business communications with KDD of Japan and Singapore Telecom, with likely alliances in Europe to be added later.

This network, known as Worldsource, will provide one-stop shopping for multinationals, which can have their billing drawn up in the counEtry, language and currency of their choice.

Although primTHER write errorarily aimed at the international market, the alliance with BT will also give MCI added strength at home, where the telecommunications industry is in a state of flux.

Cable TV companies are joining telephone firms to sell voice and video interactive services down the same lines, and competition to win domestic long distance business is cut- throat.

The infusion of new capital from BT will give MCI the financial strength for opportunities in multimedia, as well as spurring its international growth.