Telecoms giant to double its reach

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The Independent Online
MCI WORLDCOM, the US telephone giant, is to double the size of its long-distance network in Europe over the next year in an aggressive attempt to take on rivals such as British Telecom, writes Peter Thal Larsen.

MCI yesterday announced plans to build national long-distance networks in the UK, France and Germany, adding 3,950km to its existing 3,200km network which stretches between major European cities.

As part of the move, WorldCom has signed a 25-year contract with Racal Telecom to build up its network in the UK. This allows WorldCom to lease unused lines - known as dark fibre - from Racal rather than having to lay the fibre itself.

Liam Strong, the former Sears executive who runs MCI's international operations, said that outside the UK the company would build most of the network itself.

Although MCI refused to say how much the project would cost, it is likely to swallow up most of the $1bn of annual capital spending it has earmarked for its international operations.

The networks, which will be up and running by the end of next year, will allow MCI to offer seamless managed telecom and data transmission services to corporate customers. "Customers won't have to be in the country's financial capital to get our unique telecoms service," said Mr Strong.

The network will pit MCI against incumbent rivals such as British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom in the battle for large corporate accounts - one of the fastest-growing telecom markets.