Tech Industry

Netscape, Qwest in Net pact

The two companies strike a three-year strategic pact to intertwine portions of Qwest's telecom offerings with Netscape's Internet services.

Netscape Communications continued its strategy to add breadth to its Netcenter portal site today through an agreement with telecommunications carrier Qwest Communications.

Under terms of the three-year pact, the Netcenter site will add a variety of long distance, Net access, and messaging offerings in conjunction with Qwest while the carrier will become a primary high-speed bandwidth provider to Netscape's high-traffic site, through a speedy fiber link.

"We view this as a landmark announcement in telecommunications and Internet communications," said Netscape chief executive Jim Barksdale in a conference call today. "We are thrilled to be partnering with Qwest."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But in response to an analyst's question, Mike Homer, Netscape executive vice president and general manager of Netcenter, acknowledged it was "fair to say" that the deal was worth $25 million, with value moving both ways.

Homer explained Portalopoly that Qwest had prepaid Netscape a "significant amount" for exposure on Netcenter, while Netscape has purchased bandwidth capacity from Qwest. Qwest is also using Netscape's enterprise software, which Qwest will resell to its corporate customers.

The new offering, dubbed "Netscape Contact," essentially provides users of Netcenter with a single site from which they can manage their long distance and Net-based communications needs. Elements include the availability of specialized "access cards," long distance rates as low as 9 cents per minute through the portal, and new features such as a central address book and unified messaging functions.

Users also will be able to initiate conference calls or send faxes through their Web browser. Netscape and Qwest will join forces to offer a specially branded Net access service called Netscape Netcenter Online by Qwest.

Bandwidth provided to Netscape will boost Netcenter's overall capacity fourfold, Homer said, making Qwest Netcenter's largest bandwidth provider.

The deal is only one of several recent moves by Netscape to boost the profile and functions of its portal site, a strategy that emerged in the aftermath of recent financial woes at the firm. Netscape's Netcenter is one of the latest serious entries into the portal field, which includes Yahoo and Excite, among others.

These sites are constantly looking for ways to raise the bar for their all-in-one Web sites, and services that fall under the so-called unified messaging category are prime properties. Yahoo, for example, offers voice-mail and fax capabilities in conjunction with JFax Personal Telecom under a deal announced in June.

Netscape Contact is live today. Services are scheduled to be rolled out on a gradual basis in the coming months.