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Telebase signs ItalCable to global network agreement.

Telebase Signs ItalCable to Global Network Agreement

Telebase Systems, Inc., creators of the EasyNet online gateway service, announced that it has signed a multi-million dollar agreement with ItalCable S.p.A., Italy's national telephone company. The agreement gives ItalCable the right to establish itself as a node in what is planned to be a global network of information systems providing access to databases stored in both local and remote locations using a multinode architecture.

ItalCable becomes the first "colleague" in a very ambitious international initiative which Telebase has dubbed Project Aristotle, allowing joint venture participants, primarily PTTs, to become equal partners with Telebase in a technology and business development effort.

"In simple terms, the agreement with ItalCable is the first step towards global expansion of the technical infrastructure of what we refer to as the `Knowledge Gateway,' " said Telebase President James E. Coane. "Today, Telebase operates from a centralized computer system in the U.S., connecting to its information providers and remarketers through leased circuits. Now, as a `node colleague,' ItalCable can connect its own node system to the U. S. hub, combining access to its own local database providers with access to the rest of the network."

According to Ernesto Pascale, president of ItalCable, "ItalCable's presence in the telecommunications and information services sectors will be strengthened through our participation in the network. The deployment of the service through our own intelligent gateway node will permit us to build into the network valuable local content, access to which will be supported by an Italian language interface."

Mr. Coane told Information Today that it is hoped that a minimum of two but preferably three more colleagues will be signed up by the end of 1991. "But this is no short-term project," he stressed. "It takes 12 to 18 months to create the local language interface alone, and that's just half the battle." Other European countries are Telebase's first targets, but Mr. Coane declined to say with whom discussions were currently underway. He did say that French and German language interfaces were the next interfaces that would most likely be developed after Italian. "Outside Europe, Asia is the next most logical market for us - Japan and the Pacific Rim."

The cost of becoming a colleague in Project Aristotle is between three and five million dollars, spread out over a multi-year period. In addition, Telebase receives ongoing royalties on gross colleague revenues. In return, the colleague has unlimited opportunity to exploit all current and future Telebase technology. The colleague enters into its own relationships with local database suppliers and is free to set its own prices for access.

For its part, Telebase will pool a portion of the licensing and royalty fees into R&D, network development, and joint marketing. Telebase guarantees colleague participation on all major decisions through board membership in Telebase International, a subsidiary formed solely to organize and manage Project Aristotle.

International Ambitions

Telebase Systems is a company of modest size and revenues. (Mr. Coane says that the company is approaching the 10 million dollar mark in terms of annual sales.) Why, we wondered, in an industry which has been relatively slow to penetrate international markets, would a company the size of Telebase employ a strategy as bold and as potentially distracting as this one?

"That's a good question," said Mr. Coane, "and it's one I am called on, as a person who has to husband scarce resources, to answer. First, by making deals over the past few years with companies such as ItalCable for them to remarket access to our own U.S.-based service, we gained some unique insights into the international scene. We saw that the PTTs need very much to deliver information to their local marketplaces, but they don't have a platform to do it. We have such a platform, and we believe it is to the advantage of many of the PTTs to join in with us and our other Aristotle partners rather than reinventing the wheel."

"Secondly, our size is really to our advantage in this case," he continued. "We know how to leverage the resources of our partners in ways that they, because of their great size, may not fully recognize."

"And finally, we believe that if we waited until we had fully achieved all our domestic objectives, it would probably be too late for us to establish a strong international presence. We believe that being first is even more important than being best in this industry. It seems that positioning is crucial. If you get users accustomed to using you, it takes a lot for them to be persuaded to switch to someone else."

Where does Telebase see itself and Project Aristotle in five years? "In five years," said Coane, "I hope we will be in partnership with most of the world's big communication companies and have achieved many ambitious R&D and market development goals in order to insure the efficient globalization of EasyNet."

These are ambitious objectives indeed. But to a company used to growing at a rate of 20 to 40 percent per year, anything must seem possible.

For more information on Project Aristotle or on Telebase Systems in general, contact Karen Tulis, Telebase Systems, Inc., 763 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 (phone 215/526-2800).

PHOTO : Telebase executives (left to right) James Coane, president, Marvin Weinberger, executive V.P. for corporate development, and Roger Wilcox, vice president of operations, celebrate the signing of ItalCable to a multi-million dollar network agreement.
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Title Annotation:Telebase Systems Inc.
Author:Hogan, Tom
Publication:Information Today
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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