Internet traffic between the United States and Europe isescalating, and France Telecom wants to be sure it's in on the action. The company outlined plans Tuesday to build a huge U.S. network backbone connected to its new pan-European backbone, so it can provide intercontinental data and voice services to carriers by 2001.
France telecom says it'll lay a $200 million, 15,000-mile, 1.6- Tbps backbone between 28 U.S. cities. Existing submarine cables will join that network to France Telecom's 250-city European backbone. The U.S. backbone is expected to carry IP, intranet-VPN, asynchronous-transfer-mode, and frame relay traffic.
A foreign player here could spell trouble for domestic carriers such as WorldCom and Qwest, and opportunity for customers. "If [France Telecom] executes, it's certainly big for the United States," says LuAnn Newman, a consultant with TeleChoice. It would be "another choice when now we're down to just a couple of big players." And France Telecom has staying power, she says.
Although France Telecom is the first of its brethren to spell out a strategy for competing in the United States, several European carriers have expressed interest since the Federal Communications Commission began relaxing its rules for foreign competition. Says Newman, "Now that a foreign company can operate in the United States, the big guys are coming over."