Causing deep concern at competitors, the Atlas telecommunications services joint venture between France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom AG will open for business early next year, perhaps as early as January, Deutsche Telekom head Ron Sommer said yesterday. Competitors worry, because the start date will be some six months before alternative infrastructure is liberalised in the two countries, and until this is seen in action, they fear that only lip-service will be paid to the concept of competition. The two partners will still be starting before formal approval is given by the European Commission, but the two have agreed in principle with Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert on concessions to be made. He said the two governments and their state operators agreed that the subsidiaries of the two operators offering low-level data services – France Telecom’s Transpac and Deutsche Telekom’s Datex-P – will not be part of the Atlas venture until the start of 1998. France is said to have made the commitment to infrastructure liberalisation willingly, Germany only reluctantly.