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MCI WorldCom wraps new Net package

The company shows its acquisition binge is adding up to more than just the sum of its expensive parts.

MCI WorldCom rolled out new evidence today that the company's acquisition binge is adding up to something more than just the sum of its expensive parts.

The company unveiled a set of new corporate Web hosting services that pulls together the Internet expertise from UUNet, Compuserve Network Services, and ANS Communications.

"We asked what were some of the things that we could leverage from the mergers," said Paul Hoffman, director of sales and marketing for MCI WorldCom Advanced Networks. "These are the first two products to come out of that."

WorldCom has been on the mergers and acquisitions path for the last two years, snapping up UUNet and then Compuserve Network Services and ANS Communications in a complicated three-way trade.

This activity had boosted the company's Internet assets to such a level that regulators forced executives to sell off MCI's Internet holdings after the two companies forged their own merger deal last year. MCI's Net business went to Britian's Cable and Wireless, giving that company its first substantial foothold in the U.S. online market.

Most of the merged company's Web hosting and services have been moved under the Advanced Networks division, which is gaining steam with the new set of consulting services. "This is clearly a manifestation of that organization starting to gel," said Jim Freeze, senior analyst with Forrester Research.

MCI's new set of offerings is targeted at blue chip corporations that want to outsource development and maintenance of public Web sites, extranets, and intranets.

Hoffman said that UUNet has offered Web hosting since 1994. But the market has changed considerably since then--a simple page in those early days ran around $300 per month. Today, a set of high-end services, complete with 24-hour access to an on-call team of MCI engineers, can run around $30,000 a month--providing a substantial source of revenue for MCI WorldCom's networking division.

According to Hoffman, the services roll together UUNet's four-year experience with traditional Web hosting, ANS's background with high-end custom Web applications, and Compuserve staff's experience with groupware and dial-up networking.

The company's new high-end corporate hosting program allows customers to pull together a package of software that integrates their own custom applications with Web servers, e-commerce and chat servers, as well as train a dedicated team of MCI engineers on the personalized system. These teams will essentially bill for consulting services by the hour.

Already, clients ranging from Visa to the Food and Drug Administration have signed up for the program in its testing phase. Compaq will use it to run and maintain its online direct sales site.

"This has been a huge part of our new sales," Hoffman said. The services are focused on U.S. customers, but also can support international clients, he added.

Analysts said the move towards consulting services as well as simple hosting was a critical one for MCI. "They're certainly trying to focus on the high end," Freeze said. "This is something that competitors will certainly do if they aren't already doing it."