MCI to offer business services on one bill Package launched as 'networkMCI One'

September 13, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

MCI Communications Corp. yesterday announced a plan to offer businesses an all-in-one suite of telecommunications services on a single bill, as part of a plan to capitalize on the new deregulation of the telephone industry.

The company hopes that, by packaging local phone service, long distance, data services and other functions into a single package, it will be able both to cut costs and to gain share quickly in markets that it is entering for the first time. The new offering is called networkMCI One.

In April, MCI unveiled MCI One, a similar package for consumers. That package involves a similar approach to the consumer and small-business markets and has been the centerpiece of MCI's summer promotional campaign.

"It's all about owning the customer," said Gary Arlen, a telecommunications consultant in Bethesda.

"The idea is MCI is your service for all kinds of things. That's why they do discounts, and they can sell you more things because they know more about how you use telecommunications services."

NetworkMCI One was introduced at an MCI conference in Dallas. It will be put into effect initially in 13 test markets, including Baltimore. It includes phone, paging, cellular, Internet access, conferencing and international services, all of which many customers now buy from separate vendors.

"What we've done is taken all the services in our business markets and integrated them into one suite," said Ronald McMurtrie, director of strategic marketing for MCI Business Markets.

"It moves us from a product focus to a customer focus and cuts through the clutter."

Indeed, cutting through clutter is at the heart of nearly all telecommunications marketing these days, spurred by customer complaints that deregulation has spawned a sort of chaos of overlapping price plans and services that no one has time to figure out.

Another expected benefit of "bundled" telecommunications is lower costs, a key reason behind the announced $12 billion merger of long-distance provider WorldCom Inc. and MFS Communications Co., the latter an upstart that competes with traditional Bell monopolies in local phone service.

McMurtrie said customers that give all their telecommunications business to one carrier can save 10 percent to 20 percent.

MCI will save on marketing costs by not having to sell customers each service separately, and will save enormously by setting up its own local networks because as much as 40 percent of the cost of long-distance calls represents fees paid to local carriers such as Bell Atlantic Corp., which MCI hopes eventually to cut out.

"We're not here to start a price war," said McMurtrie, adding that MCI hopes to bill $1 billion for local phone service during the next three years.

MCI was barred from the local phone service industry until the telecommunications law passed in February.

A leading industry analyst said MCI's plan is ahead of most of its competitors' attempts at bundling.

"Nobody else is doing all that today," said Chris Landes, a consultant at TeleChoice Inc. in Verona, N.J.

"You can ask all your regional Bell operating company friends why they are dragging their feet."

But Landes said the "suite" plans will not guarantee success for MCI or any of its followers. He said the sheer scale of such operations can make it more difficult to provide personalized customer service, which he said will separate winners from losers as prices fall.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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