Cable & Wireless (C&W) is accelerating its expansion plans in Europe with an investment of $1 billion (#0.6 billion) over the next five years for an integrated voice and data network connecting more than 40 European cities.
Over the next five years, the network will link up with C&W's existing infrastructure in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, enabling the UK carrier to compete with established global players like WorldCom and BT's Concert Communications Services.
A big chunk of the infrastructure will be an IP-based fibre optic network which comes from the company's $1.75 billion (#1.05 billion) purchase of MCI's Internet business, in September.
C&W will target the network at multinational businesses in Europe. The company's existing major customers in Europe include Compaq, Andersen Consulting and Black & Decker.
This latest investment is in addition to the company's intended $5 billion (#3 billion) in the UK over the next three years. The UK Network 2000 project is upgrading Cable & Wireless Communi-cations' voice and data network to account for the increase in data traffic, the company said.
The first results of C&W's European expansion will be seen later this year with a voice and data service in Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. The northern Euro-pean part will be completed in late 1999, and southern Europe will be connected by December 2000.
Europe has, until now, been the missing part of C&W's global strategy, according to analysts, and previous attempts to fill the void, including a failed relationship with Telecom Italia, have proved unsuccessful.
"Europe was a black hole in its global plans," said James Bennett, research analyst at CIT Research. "It is quite well placed to take advantage of its trans-Atlantic connections and to take advantage of the UK as a stop-off point between Europe and the US."
"One reservation is that there are so many pan-European operators in the market," added Bennett. "There may be a superfluity of service providers in Europe."
C&W hopes to double its revenue growth every year for the next few years, according to Stephen Pettit, executive director of global business at C&W.
"We've changed from running corner shops on A-roads to running hypermarkets on global highways," he said. C&W will back its growth plans with a pan-European advertising campaign.
C&W launches eCHARGE in the UK
Cable & Wireless launched eCHARGE in the UK last week, a scheme that allows users to automatically transfer their local rate Internet call connection to a higher tariff when they want to purchase goods or services.
The micropayment system means that users don't have to release credit card details to purchase low-cost items or services such as news and information over the Internet. Instead, the charges are added to their phone bills.
Once the transaction is completed, users can either return to their normal local charge rate or access another higher rate Web site to buy something else.
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