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AT&T casts its net across the Pacific

The long distance giant agrees to link corporate data networks with NTT, Japan's dominant telco, in a move that could herald a growing transpacific alliance.

AT&T has agreed to link corporate data networks with NTT, Japan's dominant telephone company, in a move that could herald a growing transpacific alliance between the two telecommunications giants.

The two companies will offer a service to corporations in both Japan and the United States that mimics a single data network, with local access points in both countries.

The deal comes several months after AT&T agreed to create a transatlantic joint venture with British Telecommunications, giving the long distance giant a foothold in the growing European market.

The company has since been looking to boost its presence in Asia, analysts said. Today's deal is far more limited than the BT relationship, but provides a way for AT&T to test the waters with a potential Asian partner.

"This could be a precursor for a more involved relationship," said Abhi Chaki, senior telecommunications analyst for Jupiter Communications. "NTT is a logical partner for Asian operations."

AT&T already offers some basic phone services in Japan, and has also initiated testing an Internet-based phone system in the region.

For its part, NTT has been slow to join other major telcos in the international partnership and acquisition game. While it has a sophisticated data and corporate services network inside Japan, the company reportedly has been looking for partnerships with other international providers to help expand its footprint abroad.

Today's agreement will allow multinational corporations to have local access in both countries, send data over the equivalent of a single end-to-end network, and use a single contract and billing system for data networking services.

The end-to-end aspect is similar to MCI WorldCom's most recent marketing campaign, which has touted its ability to carry voice and data over a single international point-to-point network.