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November 21, 1995

US WEST EYES BELGIAN INTERACTIVE TELEVISION, COMPETES WITH BELGACOM

By CBR Staff Writer

US West Inc is considering becoming an equity partner in an operation that could bring interactive services to 2.1m subscribers in north Belgium. Belgian investment bank GIMV Bank is heading the Telenet Flanders operation. It is currently finalising plans to bring together the 21 cable companies in the Flanders region to upgrade their networks to offer interactive services. More than 90% of Flemish homes are connected to cable so cable-based interactive services in Flanders will reach most of the population. US West, an operational partner in the project, said it expects to make a decision in December and feels very positive about the project. US West carried out a feasibility study in the summer to see how the existing cable network could be upgraded to provide multimedia services. This entailed market research to see what residential and business users would expect from a second telephone operator and from interactive services. The results were very favourable, US West said. Because of those results we are now considering becoming an equity partner in the project. GIMV said the plan is to upgrade the networks to hybrid fibre-coax. A fibre-optic transport network will be deployed between existing coaxial distribution systems and other communications providers. Using a ring topology and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy techniques, this backbone will provide redundant operations. In addition fibre optics will be extended into the existing cable system. The government commissioned GIMV to carry out a study of the future of cable telephony networks last October. GIMV now says it is likely to carry out an interactive services trial in Flanders to offer home shopping and video on demand services similar to the trial being headed by national telecommunications operator Belgacom NV in Brussels. Telenet Flanders plans to become the second telecommunications carrier in Belgium offering a telephone service in competition with state carrier Belgacom. GIMV is a regional investment company of Flanders 96% owned by the Flemish government, but it is managed as a private company.

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