December 9, 1996 1:45 PM ET

MFS, UUNet prep xDSL service
By Maria Seminerio

  MFS Communications Co. Inc. and its ISP subsidiary, UUNet Technologies Inc., are taking aim at the small-to-midsize business market for Internet services with a high-speed xDSL offering to be available early in the first quarter of 1997, MFS officials said today.

Hoping to leverage the ubiquitous switched network of copper wire forming the nation's telephone service backbone, MFS officials teamed up with Ascend Communications Inc. to develop a hardware solution for connecting end users to MFS' Internet backbone, said CEO James Crowe.

Ascend, meanwhile, is set to roll out its full suite of Digital Subscriber Line hardware tools this week.

The xDSL service will provide 128K-bps Internet access for businesses and consumers now relying on 14.4K- or 28.8K-bps modems, allowing them to bypass increasingly congested local telephone company switching networks, Crowe said. Ascend will provide the hardware for this connection.

The service will go live in selected markets early next year, with a nationwide rollout to follow by the end of the year, said Ronald Vidal, vice president of new ventures at MFS, of Omaha, Neb.

Pricing, which has not been set, will be competitive for small office/home office users and consumers as well as other smaller businesses, Vidal said.

Existing agreements hammered out under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Clinton in February, allow MFS and its Internet service provider unit, UUNet, access to the copper lines connecting consumers to local telephone company networks. This access means MFS' xDSL customers will not have to install additional telephone lines, Crowe said.

MFS' pending merger with WorldCom Inc. will deliver 400,000 potential customers for the service, Vidal added.

MFS can be reached at www.mfst.com/.

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