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US West touts $3 billion investment plans

The Baby Bell will invest more than $3 billion to upgrade its telephone network and roll out new high-speed Net and wireless telephone services in 1999.

US West said today it would invest more than $3 billion to upgrade its telephone network and roll out new high-speed Internet and wireless telephone service in 1999.

The company said it would focus heavily on bringing high-speed data services to customers across its 14-state service area next year, and on integrating Net access with its wireless services.

"A year from now, customers will look back in disbelief at how fast things have developed," said US West CEO Sol Trujillo in a statement. "Customers will see the convenience of regular phone service, the power of the Internet and the freedom of wireless integrated as never before."

US West has been one of the leaders among Baby Bell local phone companies in rolling out high-speed DSL, or digital subscriber line services. According to company figures, more than 20,000 customers will be using the service by the end of 1998.

But the company has still been criticized by businesses, ISPs, and some rival companies for rolling services out too slowly. US West executives say this is largely because they have been hampered by government regulations regarding DSL. The company today vowed to overcome barriers that have prevented the quick introduction of high-speed services, as well as repeated its intentions to enter the long distance market.

The company will, however, face greater competitive pressures next year. Long distance phone companies, led by MCI WorldCom, have announced plans to roll out DSL services nationwide in 1999, while cable companies plan to push ahead with their own high-speed Net access services like @Home and Road Runner.

US West also said they would expand their wireless service to Salt Lake City, Utah, and several other markets inside their service area.

The company plans to work with Qualcomm and Microsoft to allow wireless subscribers to gain access to their data services through wireless phones, executives said. US West customers already can receive text messages and pages though its wireless service.

US West said it is scheduled to deploy DSL lines in Phoenix, Arizona, that will allow customers to receive cable television, as well as voice and data services, over the high-speed network.