Sprint Corp’s has announced that its Fonselect global Virtual Private Network is now generally available and is being targetted at multinational companies to enable them to interconnect their offices directly, although at the moment the service only operates between the US and the UK. It is aimed at the medium and larger sized businesses and provides features such as seven digit international dialling, caller identification and ring-back-when-free through a single service vendor. The international office, for example, will have its own short digit extension number which is converted to a full international direct dial number at the switch. Sprint is using Northern Telecom Ltd switches and has invested to provide 24-hour, seven-day customer support as well as sophisticated billing systems, detailing calls according to location or cost centre, for example. The billing charges are comparable to those of an international direct dial service, but Sprint says the advantage lies in these additional features. The system differs from the usual bi-lateral Virtual Private Network services in that the customer only has contact with one network company. Robert Sweidler, marketing director for northern Europe says that Sprint is concentrating on providing value-added products like the new Fonselect service. It is in the process of installing its own switches in all of these different countries instead of having to make agreements with other telecommunications firms to send traffic across their networks. On the issue of Sprint setting up its own UK national network now that it has been granted a licence, Sweidler says that the UK network depends on getting a full international licence. It applied for one in January 1992, but he says ‘an international licence always seems to be two years away.’ He added that if the international licence was there then Sprint’s investment plans would significantly change and it would look to setting up its own national network in the UK.
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