New fiber-optic network coming to Zurich

Dec. 1, 1997

New fiber-optic network coming to Zurich


Colt Telecom Zurich AG of Switzerland will soon offer Zurich another new, high-speed telecommunications network to better connect one of Europe`s busiest financial services centers. colt Telecom Group plc, London, announced in October that its Swiss operating company has received a license from the Swiss Federal Office for Communications to build and operate an alternative telecommunications network in the city of Zurich.

Paul Chisholm, colt`s president and chief executive, comments, "The international business community of Zurich represents a major business opportunity for colt. Our commitment to customers is to expand into key cities throughout Europe."

The public telephone operator (pto) trial license entitles colt Telecom to construct or use existing public facilities to build its fiber-optic network and comes in advance of full Swiss telecommunications deregulation, which is anticipated on January 1, 1998.

colt Telecom will apply for the required full license in 1998 to operate public telecommunications services in Switzerland before starting to offer its pan-European services menu that includes the full range of voice and data services for Zurich-based customers. colt will also need to negotiate for interconnection of the colt Zurich city fiber-optic network with the existing national network operated by SwissCom, Switzerland`s publicly owned carrier.

"Zurich`s international business community represents a major business opportunity for colt," according to Chisholm.

colt`s network architecture for Zurich is designed around the Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (sdh) standard, as are colt`s other European operations, with end-to-end provision via fiber-optic cable (see figure on page 1). "This approach features high-availability bandwidth for private wire and switched services," states Edward Parker-Gervis, colt`s director of engineering. "colt`s city network is flexible enough to handle growing bandwidth requirements of business users. sdh technology is probably as future-proof as any network technology can be."

The initial investment will be similar to colt networks in other cities, starting with 15 km (9.3 mi) of fiber covering the central business district and costing from 24 million to 26 million Swiss francs (US$16 million to US$24 million). "Selection of the sdh supplier has not yet been finalized," according to Parker-Gervis. "We have used different suppliers in the United Kingdom [e.g., Nortel and gpl] and in Germany [Siemens]."

It is noteworthy that while both colt`s London and Frankfurt operations started with only 15 km of fiber-optic loop, they are much larger today. colt boasts an end-to-end fiber network in the United Kingdom, with 156 km that covers London, Docklands, Westminster, and the West End, serving 747 buildings and more than 700 corporate customers. As of July 1997, the colt network in Germany covered 147 km in Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin, including 152 buildings and 119 customers in Frankfurt.

In Europe, colt Telecom has always focused on offering an attractive value proposition that has won it some very demanding customers. Zurich customer profiles include financial services information providers, banks, insurance groups, stock brokers, and other non-Swiss pto carriers (e.g., at&t, Global One, and tmi).

Roger Gehrig, colt`s new managing director (formerly of Siemens and Telekurs), says, "colt Telecom is known to many key customer prospects here in Zurich and we have been encouraged by our existing international customers to expand our business into Switzerland."

colt`s earlier network construction successes--new services deployed in less than 12 months--will be difficult to repeat in Zurich. Massive construction plans by a variety of alternative carriers in the next few years have given local government officials a great deal to coordinate. Disruption of daily urban life in Switzerland`s busiest financial district must be managed in a tight, orderly manner.

Commenting on colt`s plans, Kathrin Martelli, elected official of the Road Construction and Public Works in the City of Zurich, says, "This is exactly the type of competition that the city has encouraged, and it is excellent news for the business and financial communities of Zurich. I would like to particularly emphasize the positive effect this will have on both the business life of the city and its international image as an important European economic center.

Another recent announcement by colt Telecom was the commercial agreement with Hermes Europe Railtel that permits both partners to offer fully integrated local and long-distance telecommunications services in London, Paris, and Frankfurt. Once colt`s Zurich city network is completed, Swiss customers might also be added in a further expansion of this interconnection agreement. q

Edward Harroff writes from Bellevue, Switzerland, on telecommunications issues.