Cable & Wireless announces network expansion plans in Europe
By EDWARD HARROFF
Building on its recent purchase of MCI?s U.S. Internet backbone network assets (worth $1.75 billion), Cable & Wireless plc (C&W?United Kingdom) has announced a new plan to accelerate the company?s global network growth. C&W has outlined an aggressive five-year, $1-billion investment plan to build a fully integrated voice, Internet, and data super-network linking more than 40 major European cities in 13 countries. This significant acceleration in C&W?s European investment is a cornerstone of the company?s plan to create one of the world?s most extensive and sophisticated global communications networks (see Figure).
C&W plans to put the first phase of its pan-European Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) network into operation by year-end after obtaining all necessary
facilities licenses and interconnect agreements. Its plan is to use dark fiber facilities from Hermes Europe Railtel (HER) for its high-speed backbone Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network linking 10 cities in eight countries. Also, Global Crossing has agreed to provision high-capacity fiber-optic links via its Pan European Crossing to provide dark fiber capacity for an Internet protocol (IP) network to more than 40 major business locations in 13 countries.
According to Chris Lewis, principal analyst at the Yankee Group Europe, C&W already had considerable European operations and its network-enhancement scheme is timely. OYankee Group Europe predicts that the current pan-European long-distance capacity of 10 Gbits will increase 10 to 20 times within three years to 100 to 200 Gbits,O says Lewis. The company is viewed as a top-tier alternative carrier for a full range of communications services. Lewis adds, OC&W must fill its long-
distance network with traffic from both retail customers and carriers? carrier business. Its real challenge is to win and control European multinational accounts based beyond the United Kingdom.O Lewis observes that C&W has already proven its ability to build and manage large complex long-distance networks, but its earlier attempts at leveraging non-U.K. retail business have not yet been fulfilled.
From the C&W Europe viewpoint, Malcolm Edwards, marketing director, explains, OThis investment is just the European portion of our integrated communications network commitment. Also, the U.K.-based investment of $5 billion for the C&W corporate and national network improvements should be mentioned. O
OBy providing significant backbone capability in Europe, we open our doors to a worldwide customer base requiring global end-to-end solutions and services, including IP,O says Stephen Pettit, executive director of C&W?s Global Businesses group. OInternet protocol is an integral part of this investment and our network will have the capacity, the speed, the reach, and the reliability that customers demand of IP.O
New ATM backbone in Europe
As an initial step, Cable & Wireless will provide ATM transmission capacity across mainland Europe to ensure that the network provides comprehensive coverage of all key European business centers. The principal supplier of this new capacity will be HER. The HER network will provide immediate bandwidth deployment that will take the C&W European network up to speeds of 155 Mbits/sec. Higher capacities can be made available if and when required. As part of this expansion, C&W will also start new operations in both Frankfurt and Dusseldorf this year to provide voice and data services to the German market over the network.
In a balance-of-trade spirit, HER has also agreed to purchase 622-Mbit/sec capacity on Gemini?s transatlantic cable. Gemini is a joint venture between C&W and WorldCom (see Lightwave, January 1997, page 1).
Meanwhile, C&W will develop a pan-European high-capacity fiber-optic network over the next two years, linking 18 cities. The agreement, valued at more than $100 million, provides C&W with dark fibers on Global Crossing?s Pan European Crossing system, which will interconnect 18 European cities, including London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Paris, with initial service planned for this year. This acquisition will give the company a 7200-km all-fiber SDH network capable of handling the equivalent of around five million simultaneous telephone calls.
The new high-speed broadband network around Europe will connect to the company?s existing worldwide hubs, including its Internet backbone in the United States and its networks in the United Kingdom and the Asia/Pacific region. In addition, recent investments in new high-capacity undersea cables across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans?Gemini, TAT-14, Southern Cross, FLAG, Japan-U.S., and China-U.S.?will help C&W form a significant fiber-optic network around the world. q
Edward Harroff writes from Bellevue, Switzerland.