Qwest offers long-distance data

FRAMINGHAM (11/03/2003) - Qwest Communications International Inc. this week said it can now offer long-distance data and IP services, in addition to voice, to businesses and government agencies in most of its 14-state region as a result of the carrier's recent financial restatement.

Qwest already offers these services - which include dedicated Internet access, virtual network services, frame relay and ATM - in the 36 states outside of its region. Two states within its region, Montana and Arizona, receive switched long-distance voice from another carrier's facilities or have not yet been cleared to receive Qwest long-distance services.

Up to now, Qwest offered a limited switched long-distance voice service to consumers and small businesses inside its region. This week's move opens up a US$6 billion market opportunity to Qwest within its 14-state region, says Cliff Holtz, executive vice president, Qwest business markets group.

Qwest two weeks ago announced its restated results for 2000 through 2002. The company said it would reevaluate its results for those periods after uncovering questionable accounting practices, including swaps of long distance capacity. The carrier's accounting practices are being investigated by the SEC and Justice Department.

Qwest was precluded from offering long-distance on its own facilities until it completed its financial restatement.

RBOCs have been targeting the large-enterprise market for much of the future growth. As they receive long-distance approval both within their regions and then nationwide, RBOCs have been turning up long-distance voice, data and IP packages like Verizon Communications Inc.'s Enterprise Advance, of which the carrier has more than 800 contracts since late last year.

"Offering long distance everywhere significantly improves our ability to compete for large-business customers who have locations across the nation," SBC Communications Inc. Chairman Ed Whitacre said in a statement on SBC's recently announced third-quarter earnings.

Under the new Qwest offerings, customers can opt for the carrier's Total Advantage or Voice Advantage packages. Qwest Total Advantage allows businesses to customize a package of local and long-distance voice and data services, and then receive cost savings based on total communications spending and term length.

Qwest Voice Advantage offers discounted long-distance rates, based on total monthly spending and term commitment, for customers interested only in voice services.

The services are offered now in Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Qwest expects to offer switched long-distance voice services over Qwest-owned facilities in Montana there later this month.

The carrier expects to receive long-distance approval from the FCC in Arizona by the end of the year.

To initiate the new service, Qwest is offering a long distance promotion. Business customers with at least six local service lines and committing to at least $500 per month in switched long-distance voice services will receive a per-minute rate of $0.04.

Businesses committing to at least $1,000 per month in dedicated long-distance services receive a per-minute rate of $0.02. Both offers have a one-year term.

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