TW forms phone unit, joins telco test

Time Warner Cable Ventures has created a new division called Time Warner Communications to get it into the telephone business and hired Thomas J. Morrow as president of the unit.

Morrow, 46, was a VP for U S West’s cable-communications division whose job was to supervise the alliances U S West is forging with cable companies, including the Time Warner stake.

A spokesman for Time Warner said Morrow will initially be involved in areas like high-speed transfer of data between businesses in different cities and video conferencing that would link up companies via long-distance providers. Services like these grossed a staggering $ 28 billion last year, the spokesman added.

In a related development, Time Warner Inc., which had opposed a test of a rival technology to deliver cable TV programming, plans to participate in that trial by Nynex Corp. of a “video dial tone” system, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

In the one-year test, the regional phone company is installing fiber-optic lines to carry basic cable TV programming to roughly 2,500 customers in Manhattan. Nynex’s partner in the test is Liberty Cable Television of Manhattan, which uses microwave technology known as wireless cable, to deliver cable TV to about 14,000 customers.

The system Nynex plans to test also will provide interactive, or two-way, information and entertainment, including movies on demand and home shopping. Nynex also plans to test switching technologies and ways to store video programs. For Nynex and other phone companies, marketing video-transmission capabilities to so-called wireless cable operators such as Liberty could give established cable operators, like Time Warner, heated competition.

However, some phone companies are working directly with cable operators. Time Warner is testing its own version of an interactive “electronic superhighway” in Orlando, Fla.; telephone companyU S West Inc. agreed two months ago to buy a 26% stake in Time Warner’s entertainment unit for $ 2.5 billion, and the two are jointly developing the electronic superhighway technology.

The Orlando pilot project would include a “full-service network” for providing movies on demand, home shopping, local telecommunications service and a variety of other information and entertainment fare.

Time Warner said it has decided to participate in the Nynex-Liberty test in order to get a close-up look at what it called “inferior” phone-company technology for providing entertainment and information services in the future.

A New York Telephone official responded that Nynex and Time Warner’s technologies are un-tested, adding, “They are using prototype technology, as are we.

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