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AOL Beefs Up UK Dial Up

America Online, Inc. Monday picked up a pair of Pan-European providers to serve up dial-up access in the United Kingdom.

Viatel Inc. and Carrier1 International S.A. were selected to join America Online's portfolio of network providers in the region.

The two service providers were quickly added in anticipation of demand for AOL's unmetered, flat-rate access plan launched in the U.K. last week.

According to a report by IDC, the Internet access market in Western Europe will continue to grow quickly due to the proliferation of subscription-free services. But unmetered Internet access is the key to success for fee-based service providers.

AOL may succeed in the region where other U.S. providers failed because free services are so pervasive that basic Internet access needs to be supplemented with unmetered access to drive user growth and demand for Net services.

The AOL UK flat-rate plan provides members with unmetered access for #14.99 a month. The pricing scheme includes all subscription and Internet telephone costs through unlimited free phone member support.

It may be just the ticket for AOL needs to ship its market dominating position in the U.S. across the Atlantic to the U.K.

York-based Viatel provides a variety of IP-based narrow and broadband communications services in Europe and the U.S. In the U.K., the firm owns and operates a 20-city fiber-optic network that enables it to provide voice, data, and mobile communications services.

Michael Mahoney, Viatel chairman and chief executive, said the firm hopes to hope to build on its U.K. relationship to extend its dial-up services for AOL across Europe.

Carrier1 is a pan-European facilities-based communications provider. Its inter-city fiber networks connect 12 European countries with carrier-grade voice and data transport.

Initially, AOL's dial-up deal with Carrier1 calls for two points-of-presence in London and Manchester, but agreements are in place to include as many as seven or eight UK connecting points.

Alex Schmid, Carrier1 executive vice president for strategic development, said being selected by AOL validates the company's quality of service and network buildout strategy.

As part a joint venture with DigiPlex S.A., Carrier1 is currently building eight full-service data centers throughout Europe.