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Level 3 to help power Xbox Live

The high-speed networking services provider announces that it has signed an agreement with Microsoft to provide infrastructure services for the Xbox Live online gaming service.

High-speed networking services provider Level 3 Communications announced Monday that it has signed an agreement with Microsoft to provide infrastructure services for the Xbox Live online gaming service.

Xbox Live is Microsoft's effort to bring video games to the Internet. Set to debut this fall, the service will allow owners of Microsoft's Xbox game console to compete with other players over the Internet, using an existing broadband connection. Microsoft is expected to begin beta testing of the service soon.

Level 3 will provide co-location services, which will give customers local hook-up to the Xbox Live Network; access to the Internet backbone through Level 3's CrossRoads service; and wide-area networking support via its Packet MPLS Private Networks service.

Broomfield, Colo.-based Level 3 provides a range of Internet infrastructure services. It maintains the dial-up modem banks that America Online customers use to connect to the Internet and serves up bandwidth to corporations and other network operators over its fiber-optic network. The company has fared better than many of its competitors during the communications industry meltdown, attracting new investment and buying several software firms.

Microsoft has said it will spend $2 billion during the next few years to build out the Xbox Live network and develop the next generation of the game console. But analysts and game industry figures have expressed doubts about the online push, saying factors ranging from slow growth in home networking to cheating by other players are likely to thwart mass acceptance of online gaming.