Boardroom tension appears to have had little impact on Esprit Telecom, with the operator announcing that its pan-European fibre optic network is six months ahead of schedule.
Esprit said on Wednesday that its 9,000 kilometre high capacity network, which will connect 614 major European cities, will open for business six months early, in mid-1999.
The network, which incorporates Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology, will be managed by a new business unit formed this week, called Esprit Telecom Networks.
But Esprit is putting on a brave face, with serious management problems lurking in the background. Board member and ousted chairman Walt Anderson has called for the removal of the company's chief executive, two outside shareholder directors, and the new chairman, from the board of directors.
An extraordinary shareholder meeting will be held on 23 November, and the company has urged shareholders to reject Anderson's proposal, and to vote to remove him from the board.
The effect on Esprit's growth is "essentially none", said Jim Reynolds, chief operating officer at Esprit. "We can do without noise in the system, but it's not slowing us down at all."
New Esprit customer, ISP Demon Internet said it wasn't at all distracted by the boardroom antics. "We were very impressed by the quality of engineers and their professionalism," said Phil Male, technical director at Demon.
Demon has bought a 45Mbps link from London to Amsterdam from Esprit, to boost the link between its UK and Netherlands operations. Demon is talking with Esprit about using its DWDM technology, said Male. "We're very interested. DWDM is able to provide the resilience of switching speed that we need," he said.
Roll-out of the network will occur sooner than originally thought for three reasons, according to Reynolds. Originally, Esprit planned to build the network for its own needs only, but now it is focused on providing access to other carriers who need capacity sooner, said Reynolds.
Esprit also accelerated progress by signing a deal with Nortel to supply SDH and DWDM technology, said Reynolds. In addition, the company secured leased fibre capacity around Europe more easily than it thought, he said.
Former Comtel group finance director Peter Mitchell has been recruited as managing director of Esprit Telecom Networks.
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