SBC Communications

SBC Communications has set out to be the only telecom company its customers would ever need - and it thinks it's a lot closer to that goal than its competitors.

SBC Communications has set out to be the only telecom company its customers would ever need — and it thinks its a lot closer to that goal than its competitors.

"We have an extraordinary set of assets," says Ross Ireland, senior executive vice president, citing the companys 61 million access lines in 13 states, its international interests and its expanding partnerships and alliances.

Now, if only the company could fully flex that muscle. Like other regional Bells, SBC chafes under state and federal regulations that prevent it from becoming the end-all, be-all for customers.

SBC, headed by CEO Ed Whitacre, includes Ameritech, Nevada Bell, Pacific Bell, SBC Telecom and Southwestern Bell.

Its incumbent carrier roots are in 20 of the 50 largest U.S. markets. SBC plans to expand into the remaining 30 through its SBC Telecom subsidiary by this time next year, and the company seems to be ahead of schedule.

Data is a major thrust. Through its $6 billion Project Pronto, SBC is expanding its fiber-optic network to make DSL service available to an estimated 77 million people by 2003.

While SBC is marketing long-distance service in four states — Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, more than any other incumbent local exchange carrier — "its been incredibly hard going" to win federal approval, Ireland says. Still, hes hopeful SBC can enter the Arkansas, California and Missouri long-distance markets later this year, and move into the upper Midwest next year.

Ireland sees no defined threats looming, but keeps an eye open. "The economy is always something you worry about," he points out. "Right now, given the set of assets we have, wed rather be us than anybody else."