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Industry prepares for global marketing.

As industry and commerce become increasingly global, international network services are keeping pace.

Fiber-optic undersea cables now span the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and more are planned in anticipation of a united Europe and greater trade with the Pacific Rim countries. Satellites add to the mix, providing point-to-multipoint transmission capability and extending service to places where cable will not go.

Traditional carriers such as AT&T, MCI, Sprint and TRT/FTC Communications are courting multinational firms with an ever-expanding menu of international services. At the same time, they are bracing for a powerful global thrust by British Telecom, as well as competition from IBM and a raft of new players and innovative services.

British Telecom is about to stake its claim as the world's leading carrier with a billion-dollar-plus global network for voice, data and video transmission services. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the network's first four switching centers will be installed in London, New York, Frankfurt and Sydney by the end of 1993.

When complete, in 2002, the network will have 32 switching hubs. It will provide multinational firms with global virtual network services at projected prices from 5% to 15% below current international public switched telephone rates.

Meanwhile, IBM has joined forces with Sears Roebuck & Co., merging their voice-and-data networks to form a worldwide network service company, named Advantis. The new network will combine the international reach of IBM's existing Information Network with other IBM services and with Sears' vast network in North America.

Advantis will be one of the world's largest private data networks and should provide stiff competition for the international carriers. However, it's unlikely the new firm will try to become another telephone company. Advantis is expected to carry voice traffic only as an option for corporate customers, with the main emphasis on data traffic and turnkey network management services.

IBM holds the majority position with Advantis. It is also one of the leaders in the emergence of new wireless services geared to mobile users worldwide. IBM has teamed with Motorola on the Ardis packet-data radio network, which is intended primarily for E-mail services.

It was also planning to work with nine cellular carriers to introduce a cellular digital packet-data system. However, the carriers are now expected to leave the consortium and compete for subscribers individually or in new joint ventures. Even so, United Parcel Service and Cellular Data Inc. are planning to link their proprietary cellular data networks to the system, and Sony Corp., Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer are developing personal information devices to run over the network next year.

Meanwhile, Motorola has a plan to provide wireless connections over virtually every spot on the earth's surface using a fleet of 66 low-orbiting satellites. Such satellites need less power and are cheaper to launch than conventional geostationary models. They are close enough to earth to pick up signals from weak transmitters and avoid the long delays associated with satellite communications. However, they need to be launched in series so that one appears overhead as another is vanishing over the horizon. Motorola's $3.4 billion Iridium network is slated to begin service in 1998.

Not to be outdone, AT&T, MCI and Sprint are working individually and collectively to address the global network needs of multinational corporations and other international users. Sprint is mirroring BT's plan for international virtual private (IVP) networks, according to Andrew Burroughs, vice president for global marketing.

Sprint is also joining AT&T and MCI in establishing IVP network services with Mexico's PTT, Telmex. Anticipating the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the new service will make it easier for multinational firms to do business with, and within, Mexico. In a similar vein, MCI International recently began IVP network service between the U.S. and Brazil. It now offers IVP service to 13 countries and has pending agreements with others.

AT&T has also expanded its Global Software Defined Network Service to allow its U.S. customers to reach foreign public digital networks in 19 countries as easily as making a domestic data call. Using its position as a leader in IVP network services, AT&T last year created a Global Virtual Network Service Forum to expedite "the rapid deployment and multinational interconnection of virtual networks."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Netcomm Update; telecommunications industry
Author:Edwards, Morris
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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