Telecom Rivalry Heats Up As Sbc Enters Tricounty Market
By Candice Ventra
A global telecommunications company is looking to expand into the South Florida market by offering competitively priced phone service and creating up to 80 jobs here.
The arrival of San Antonio-based SBC Telecom, a subsidiary of SBC Communications, means the tri-county area will soon have a new company to choose from other than BellSouth for local phone and Internet connection services, says Pete J. Hernandez, regional vice president of external affairs for SBC Telecom Miami.
SBC is one of the Baby Bells that were born in the break-up of AT&T. The company employs more than 208,000 and has revenues of more than $50 billion, Mr. Hernandez says.
This week SBC Telecom will start offering services in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, he says.
So far, 55 people have been hired in Miami-Dade and up to 30 more hires are expected soon in the two other counties, he says.
"We will be a competitive local exchange carrier yet in some instances we will be co-locating with BellSouth," Mr. Hernandez says. "We will also offer Internet service at rates that will be competitive if not lower than other carriers."
The company will be offering phone and Internet services to residential areas, small businesses and large companies.
SBC has started to develop a strong presence in South Florida. Last week the company leased 17,000 square feet at Waterford Centre, 6205 Blue Lagoon Drive, Mr. Hernandez says.
The company also has a switching station in Doral and Pompano Beach and will soon open offices in Palm Beach.
SBC is working with FPL Fiber Net, a subsidiary of FPL Group, to establish its telecommunications infrastructure, he says.
He says FPL Group will lease dark fiber to SBC in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach a contract valued at $110 million.
Dark fiber refers to fiber that does not yet have the electronics for communications transmissions. SBC provides the electronics or "lights" the cable to make the fiber customer ready.
"We wanted to get to market quickly," Mr. Hernandez says. "If we had to build our own infrastructure it would take us years."
FPL Fiber Net operates 1,600 miles of fiber optics in Florida and is building 1,500 more miles of fiber in the state’s metropolitan areas, says Neil Flynn, FPL Fiber Net president.
"We are particularly gratified to have been chosen by SBC," Mr. Flynn says. "This transaction validates our strategy and reflects the growing demand for fiber and capacity in metropolitan areas. The growth is fueled by the exposition of the Internet and by new telecommunications entrants."
Spero Canton, BellSouth spokesperson, says BellSouth welcomes the friendly competition that SBC Telecom will bring to the local market.
"We welcome them to the fray," Mr. Canton says. "There is enough room here for people to compete on an ongoing basis. The strongest companies the ones that provide good service to customers will stay. And there will be some that will not be successful. This is a very fertile competitive environment."
Mr. Canton says BellSouth co-locates with SBC Telecom and several other local exchange carriers.
Co-location, he says, is a regulatory mandate given to incumbent local exchange companies to allow other similar companies to use their switching station facilities.
BellSouth has 27 stations in Miami-Dade County alone that are rented to local exchange carriers, he says.
"It’s gotten to the point that there is a great deal of traffic there and very little of it is BellSouth’s," Mr. Canton says.
About 100 companies in Florida are doing business as alternative local exchange carriers, he says. "Competition is alive and well and active in Florida, although there is a lot of talk it’s not."
SBC is aggressively expanding throughout the US and plans to enter 30 new markets, including Seattle and Boston, by October 2001, Mr. Hernandez says.
This month the company will open a call center in Tampa, he says. So far, 200 employees have been hired to work at that center and about 550 are expected to be hired by next year. Details: SBC Telecom, (786) 388-1110; FPL Fiber Net, (305) 552-3888.