KPNQwest's Ebone network shut down

3 July 2002 -- Technicians have shut down the 10,000km Ebone network, the largest of three sections of KPNQwest's 25,000km pan-European data network.

3 July 2002 -- Technicians have shut down the 10,000km Ebone network, the largest of three sections of KPNQwest's 25,000km pan-European data network (which is the largest fibre backbone in Europe, and once carried about 40% of all Internet traffic). All the staff at the Brussels facility have been laid off.

The shut-down came after a Belgian bankruptcy administrator rejected a last-minute Euro15m bid for Ebone from Peter Wilkinson, the entrepreneur who co-founded Freeserve, which fell short of the asking price and had too many conditions attached.

Owing its banks about Euro300m, KPNQwest went bankrupt in May, after only acquiring Ebone in March. KPNQwest is now being broken up and sold after the collapse in late June of talks to sell the entire system to first USA's AT&T Corp and then Dutch venture-capital company Trimoteur (whose Euro220m bid was rejected).

"Auction contracts" have been sent to five groups interested in buying KPNQwest's central European operations, which have drawn interest from a consortium led by Lehman Brothers and Dublin-based operator eTel. The price is unlikely to exceed Euro50m.

Also, according to Reuters, Jan van Apeldoorn (a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for KPNQwest) expects a bid for most of KPNQwest's assets (excluding Ebone network and KPNQwest's Central European network) from Dutch co-parent KPN Telecom by 7 July, hopefully for more than Euro20m.

Apart from Ebone, the rest of KPNQwest's network (i.e. rings in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and France, as well as a transatlantic link and a network operations centre in the Hague) is expected to stay up and running for the time being.

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