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Netscape boldly strategises while Yahoo timidly withdraws

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Portal and telecom convergence has taken a step forwards and backwards this week. Netscape announced a three-year strategic deal with Qwest to provide communication services for its portal, while Yahoo announced that it was stopping its own deal with MCI, inked in March, because of the sale of MCI to Cable & Wireless. The AT&T deals with Excite, Infoseek and Lycos stay in place. Denver-based Qwest (the number four US long-distance carrier) is paying Netscape $25 million for the privilege of a spot on Netscape's crowded portal. At least Netscape's Web sites should soon render faster, as a 622 megabits a second fibre will join Netscape to Qwest. Qwest is building an 18,500-mile fibre network to blanket around 80 per cent of US data and voice traffic, and has a submarine cable link to a country called "Europe". There will be instantaneous re-routing in the event of the fibre being cut, without service interruption they say. The new service will be called Netscape Contact, and is starting this month. An "Access Card" is planned (we suspect the name may have to be changed) to allow self-service management of billing, access services and third party calls on the road. US long distance call costs will be nine cents a minute, charged by the second, or even five cents for heavier users. Netscape is arranging a single In Box for email, voice and fax, with worldwide access. Qwest, which paid $185 million in stock for ISP CMT of New Jersey this week, expects a lower cost of gaining customers, and Netscape is hoping that the deal will bring more surfers to its portal, which is already looking successful. ®

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