AT&T speeds up global network expansion

AT&T Corp. is shifting into high gear on a plan to broaden the deployment of its global telecommunications and data services network.

AT&T last week said it will accelerate its rollout schedule by adding 20 more network nodes in Europe, Asia and Latin America this year. That’s in addition to the 102 points of presence that were already scheduled to go online by year’s end as part of a planned US$300 million investment in the network.

Joyce Van Duzer, an AT&T spokeswoman, said the 20 additional service areas were originally expected to be added during the next several years but are being put in now because of increasing demand from multinational corporate users.

Asked if the quicker expansion is part of an attempt to woo users away from rival WorldCom Inc., Van Duzer said there’s no direct link to the financial problems WorldCom is experiencing. But she said it’s possible that the service-area increases being sought by AT&T’s customers are partly driven by worries about what’s happening in the telecommunications market.

Ken McGee, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said the accelerated expansion is consistent with the plans that AT&T laid out last August, when it mapped its global network strategy. “This is meeting customer demand,” he said. “It’s not capitalizing on the problems at WorldCom.”

Jim Slasby, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said the timing could just be a coincidence. AT&T has planned all along to increase the scale of its global network at a steady rate to make the technology more attractive to multinational companies, he said.

“But it certainly doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of WorldCom customers who are wondering what they’ll do if WorldCom’s money woes continue,” Slasby said.

AT&T last week reported a $12.7 billion second-quarter loss that was fueled by $13.1 billion worth of charges. But during a conference call about the results, AT&T President David Dorman said that the company has already won customers away from WorldCom. “We ought to be the biggest beneficiary of [WorldCom’s bankruptcy filing],” he said.