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November 23, 1995

BRITISH TELECOM GOES DUTCH WITH DUTCH RAILWAY

By CBR Staff Writer

British Telecommunications Plc has decided that the liberalising Netherlands is a much better bet than near-bankrupt and statist Belgium, and having abandoned its bid for the 49% stake on offer in Belgacom NV, it has hopped across the border and grabbed the seat left vacant by the cable television companies as partner to the Dutch national railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen NV. The vacancy occurred following the collapse of the Enertel consortium, which had been heir presumptive to the licence. BellSouth Corp had been a member of Enertel, but withdrew in disgust and although Spoorwegen tried to woo it as sole partner, the Atlanta phone company played so hard to get that the railway turned to British Telecom. On obtaining a licence, the new company – Telecom 2 – will address the market for data, voice and video services. It will also act as a distributor for Concert, British Telecom said, referring to its global networking services joint venture with MCI Communications Corp. The new company aims to start with the business telephony market but will look at the residential market with the advent of switched speech telephony in 1998. Enertel does still exist, but now comprises only the main regional Dutch electricity companies and local cable television companies; it thus has connections to most Dutch homes but has no mature telecommunications infrastructure to deliver communications. Spoorwegen says the new – equally-owned – venture is basically intended to operate within the Dutch borders but the railway also has access to Hermes, the pan-European telephone network laid along railway tracks, which is planning to start up next year.

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