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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Net weathers WorldCom fallout
Globel and cables, Eyewire
WorldCom's network girdles the globe
Browsing the web is not going to get slower and your e-mail messages are not going to take longer to arrive now that WorldCom has gone into bankruptcy protection.

WorldCom controls almost 30% of the biggest net cables in the US but these wires are to be kept operating as the telecoms giant refinances its business.

Experts predict that there is more than enough spare capacity to soak up the data needs of WorldCom's customers should the financing fail and the company sell off or shut down its network.

European customers seem to have little reason to worry. WorldCom's subsidiaries outside the US have declared that they will continue trading normally.

Damage limitation

WorldCom's strategy of aggressive acquisition has put it to the top of many tables listing who owns or runs most networks.

Research by US consultancy Telegeography shows that WorldCom runs 30% of the capacity of the 20 biggest backbone networks in the US. This is more than the combined totals of four of its biggest rivals.

Jonh Sidgmore, Worldcom, AP
WorldCom boss Sidgmore said its network would keep running
The research also shows that WorldCom controls or gives net access to more than 3,400 networks around the world. Its rivals AT&T and Sprint each control barely half as many.

But the figures reveal that despite WorldCom's size it still does not have a controlling share of the net's data cables.

The internet is arranged as a network of networks. There is no single cable that connects all parts to every other.

This makes the network very good at handling congestion caused by, for example, the sudden disappearance of cables because there are many alternative routes for traffic to travel.

Problems might arise if WorldCom suddenly decided to turn off its network and abandon its customers.

In June 2000, WorldCom's network suffered an outage that meant delays for traffic right across the US portion of the internet.

Internet "weather reports" from that date show latency, or delays, creeping up as the WorldCom network struggled to cope with the amount of network traffic passing through it.

Bandwidth boom

But, so far, it looks unlikely that WorldCom will suddenly turn off its cables.

"You do not tend to see black holes opening up," said a spokeswoman for the London Internet Exchange (Linx) - where the UK's net service providers swap traffic.

She said that because WorldCom was seeking bankruptcy protection, its network would keep running.

"Networks do not just disappear," she said. "They tend to run until someone takes over that particular network."

She said that the experience people had with KPNQwest was likely to be repeated.

Although that network was recently threatened with closure, it kept going for a month before it started to be turned off.

But even if WorldCom did flip the switch, the impact is likely to be slight because many of WorldCom's customers are probably already looking for alternative suppliers of net access.

As a result, a sudden switch-off would inconvenience far fewer people.

Finally, the boom in dot.coms and all things internet has produced an over supply of network capacity.

Telegeography estimates that in 2001, there was five times more cable capacity available than was actually being used.

The disappearance of WorldCom would barely dent that huge glut.

WorldCom

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03 Jul 02 | Business
31 May 02 | Business
29 Aug 00 | Business
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