March 12, 1997 6:00 PM ET

BellSouth, IBM forge Net access ties
By Stephanie LaPolla

  BellSouth.net Inc., the Internet services arm of BellSouth, announced an agreement today with IBM Global Services that extends its reach to 30 additional cities in the nine-state region, bringing its coverage to a total of 44 cities. The companies also will cooperate on developing new technologies that improve Internet access for their customers.

As a result of the partnership, BellSouth customers will be able to ride on IBM's network infrastructure, available in 830 locations in 49 countries, providing "in region" service even when dialing in from outside BellSouth's long-distance boundaries.

When BellSouth customers connect to the Internet service from outside the region, they will have access to the same BellSouth-branded Netscape Communications Corp. Navigator software, Internet search capabilities and E-mail that are available to them in their local region, said officials for the Atlanta company.

IBM benefits by having access to BellSouth's Commerce-Link suite of high-speed T-1 connections and secure routing Internet products for its own customers.

Together, BellSouth.net and IBM will move forward to develop and deploy the Next Generation Internet Platform, which will be based on asymmetric digital subscriber line and other emerging technologies. Expected to be included in the platform will be new levels of security, compression technologies and multiple forms of access to the Internet including wireless, smart cards and even kiosk-based connections, according to officials from both companies.

Although they did not disclose technical details, BellSouth.net officials said the Next Generation Internet Platform will separate data traffic from voice traffic to alleviate congestion problems that could result from continued growth of the Internet.

"BellSouth certainly recognizes the importance not just of the Internet, but continuing the high-quality circuit-switch voice network established over the decade," said John Robinson, BellSouth.net's president.

"As we deploy technology that makes sense for the long-term architectural plan, the object of NGIP is not to wait until we have all the pieces and parts available. We will make the [technologies] available to customers as they become cost-effective solutions," Robinson said.

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