As the world's largest international carrier, AT&T is guaranteed a place at the head table of telecommunications' global feast. It's the only phone company that manufactures equipment. It owns a major computer subsidiary. Once its pending acquisition of McCaw Cellular Communications Inc. is complete, it will operate the largest U.S. cellular network. And it has a 60% share of the U.S. long-distance market.
AT&T doesn't need to figure out how to expand its global reach--just where to focus it. "The biggest challenge for us is to pick the right opportunities for investment," says Chairman Robert E. Allen. In that respect, being the biggest can be a drawback: AT&T has found that most phone companies don't relish playing junior partner. So, instead of formal alliances, it has formed WorldPartners Assn., a loose coalition of carriers offering corporate customers compatible data and voice services. Other members include Japan's KDD, Singapore Telecom, Telecom New Zealand, Australia's Telstra, Hong Kong Telecom, and Unisource, an alliance of Scandinavian phone companies.