WorldCom, the company that outbid British Telecom and GTE to buy telecom giant MCI Communications last October, wants to become aggressive in Asia. But in Hong Kong, the US-based telecom firm feels thwarted by regulations - such as the Hongkong Telecom monopoly on the lucrative long-distance voice market - which so far have prevented it from offering all of its services since its arrival in February 1996. 'Hong Kong is an important financial centre. It deserves more competition,' said Colin Williams, president of WorldCom International, a WorldCom subsidiary. WorldCom mostly provides end-to-end managed corporate networks spanning the globe. Its customers - mostly large banks using WorldCom's data networking services - can contract network operations to WorldCom. For instance, WorldCom customers could 'put their kit' in WorldCom's communications centre in Chai Wan, said Steve Liddell, WorldCom International's Asian president. Frame relay, a medium-fast wide-area networking protocol was WorldCom's 'bread and butter because it's the only thing in many nations that we've been allowed to provide', said Mr Williams. Mr Williams said WorldCom was cheaper than its competitors because it operated and owned its network operations centres and international bandwidth. WorldCom was building a terabit network (1,000 gigabits per second) in the United States to 'meet what we think is the demand' for Internet services. In Europe, WorldCom also is building and financing privately a 480-gigabit-per-second network - 48 optical fibres each with capacity of eight gigabits per second. 'Little by little, we are putting together what we see as a new breed of telecommunications company, one which is focused on data, Internet, high-speed broadband services,' he said. WorldCom would like to build its own high-speed trans-Pacific underseas link from the US to Asia, probably Japan, Mr Williams said, although there were no existing plans. Due to regulations in financial centres such as Hong Kong where most of WorldCom's customers are located, customers still must connect to its network via local telephone operators. Similar to its reluctance to partner other telecom firms in global alliances like Concert or Global One, WorldCom would prefer not to lease bandwidth from local operators. 'You can't buy that capacity from the PTTs, it's just too darn expensive. You actually have to own that infrastructure and build it yourself,' Mr Williams said. So where regulations permit, it has built fibre-optic networks in financial centres worldwide - initially in central business districts, and gradually expanding. In Hong Kong, where WorldCom holds a PNETs licence to provide data-networking services, the company would have built a local network if it had arrived early enough to bid for a licence. 'We've been very frustrated here by our timing,' Mr Williams said. In Singapore, WorldCom joined Sembawang Corp to bid for a local telecom licence. Mr Liddell denied a report by Internet news service CNET that the company wanted to spend US$76 million in Japan to begin laying fibre-optic cable networks in Tokyo and other big cities. The report, which Mr Liddell called 'speculative', said the company would launch services after the telecom sector was deregulated, perhaps in early March. WorldCom was not planning to expand in the mainland. 'The market is very difficult. There is no way to make an honest buck in China right now. There are not a lot of good opportunities given China's regulatory framework. We'll go to China when China is ready for us.' Mr Williams said corporate needs were changing rapidly as companies moved their 'boring corporate applications to IP [Internet Protocol], packet-based networks, which are more efficient than switch-based ones'. Mr Williams saw international simple resale (ISR) of voice as 'a very attractive and very essential opportunity for Hong Kong'. He hoped discussions about opening up the sale of ISR voice to other parties were 'very much be on the agenda between the Office of Telecommunications Authority and Cable & Wireless'. Mr Williams said the merger with MCI, besides being 'extraordinarily helpful for improving our name recognition', had little implication outside of the US. As for Concert, MCI's joint-venture global networking service with British Telecom, WorldCom will be a non-exclusive distributor for Concert for the next five years. But the firm is unlikely to want to retain its 25 per cent stake in Concert. 'There is a fairly substantial degree of competition between Concert products and the WorldCom global products,' he said. Despite WorldCom's penchant for high-profile purchases, Mr Williams did not predict any more acquisitions in the near future.