AT&T to expand business broadband footprint in Canada

AT&T Inc. said on Thursday its multi-billion dollar investment to expand its worldwide network allows it to bring all of its enterprise services to multinational companies in Canada, enabling them to compete more aggressively in the global economy.

Earlier this week, AT&T announced it will invest US $8 to $8.5 billion ($2.8 billion in new capital) in 2006 towards extending services, reach and access into additional locations worldwide. These include Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Canada and the U.S. With this investment AT&T said it will be able to provide network connectivity to 97 per cent of the world economy based on the 127 countries it has MPLS access in versus the CIA World Factbook list of global economies.

“That capability allows us to bring all of the AT&T services into Canada,” said David Denault, general manager of AT&T Communications Corp. AT&T, for example, will be extending its dedicated MPLS-based IP access capabilities in 127 countries, including Canada. These capabilities include VoIP, data hosting and eventually WiMax, which AT&T is planning on trialing here. To offer MPLS service in Canada, AT&T has carrier agreements with Bell and Telus as well as physical facilities across the country.

The expansion also includes the integration of 1,000 TDM-based SBC nodes into AT&T’s global MPLS-based network, new network interconnections and additional remote access points totaling over 35,000 points globally.

“We’ve got pretty good coverage (in Canada) of our MPLS services,” said Denault. “What we want to offer to our customers here in Canada so they can go international is more options in terms of DSL and Ethernet.”

AT&T also announced it would be doubling its DSL country coverage for business access via agreements with local carriers, tripling its Ethernet country connectivity and enhancing its satellite, Wi-Fi and wireless access.

Prior to spending $20 million to re-brand itself as Allstream in 2003 — Allstream was bought by Manitoba Telecom Services in 2004 for $1.7 billion — AT&T Canada had the most remote access points in the country over any other carrier.

“They were the star of Canadian remote access for years,” said industry analyst Roberta Fox of Fox Group. Fox was an employee at AT&T with their consulting division until 1999.

Compared to its competitors who offer similar services on a global scale such as MCI and Verizon, AT&T still has the majority of market share when it comes to providing IP-based communications to businesses.

“They’ve got the global reach and the network and the distribution,” said Fox.

This reach allows AT&T to offer its Canadian customers a chance to better compete in the global marketplace, said Denault. AT&T has access to the markets where Canadian companies have manufacturing facilities and retail operations.

“That’s where we have an advantage to those customers to offer them seamless services so they can concentrate on competing with their products and developing innovative products,” he said.

AT&T has noticed more competition on a global scale in the last few years from the Infonets, Verizons and MCIs of the world, but they haven’t caught up yet, said Denault.

“A lot of them are getting press now because they’re building out their networks,” he said. “We’re getting press because we’re reinforcing ours.”

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