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Thomas Obrey[July 7, 2004]

AT&T Goes Hi-tech: Co. Launches VoIP Calling Plan

BY JOHANNE TORRES


Telecommunications dinosaur AT&T (news - alert - quote) recently announced that it will take a bite out of the voice over IP (VoIP) (define - news - alert - tutorial) pie by launching a service that will enable customers to use the hot technology at home. CallVantage was rolled out during late March, and the company has just expanded the coverage area by 10 additional states.  

CallVantage�s service expansion has reached the areas of Washington, D.C.; Wilmington, Del.; Indianapolis and Muncie, Ind.; Kansas City, Kan.; Baltimore; Minneapolis/St. Paul; St. Louis; Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, N.C.; Omaha, Neb.; Allentown and Philadelphia, Pa.; and Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; with the addition of the new coverage areas of Jersey City, Monmouth and Trenton, N.J.; Albany, Buffalo, Glens Falls, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica-Rome, N.Y. It is in AT&T�s plans to reach 100 markets by the end of September 2004. 

�[These] market entries, place us in 22 states and 72 major markets in just 14 weeks since service introduction,� said Cathy Martine, AT&T senior vice president for Internet Telephony, Consumer Marketing and Sales. �AT&T already provides traditional residential local service to more than 4.3 million households nationwide, but AT&T CallVantage Service marks the beginning of an exciting new era in voice communications that gives customers a compelling new choice.� 

While services like CallVantage might be expected to replace legacy telephone services in the future, it is unclear if VoIP providers like AT&T could reach those customers that are unable to afford costly high-speed ISP services.  Despite the fact that a growing number of households have access to these broadband connections through their cable or local telephone company, only about one in five subscribe nationally. According to data from TNS Telecoms, broadband penetration in the markets entered today averages a little lower at 18.1 percent.   

Joining the Race of the Pricing Packages 

VoIP�s trendy technology has set off the creation of new companies like Vonage (news - alert), BroadVoice, Packet 8, and the likes, which offer very competitive at-home VoIP calling packages. AT&T has entered the space with a six-month introductory rate of $19.99 a month (normally $34.99) through August 31, 2004. The promotional rate includes a complete calling solution that provides unlimited local and long-distance domestic calling, including calls to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, discount rates for international calling, and a suite of advanced features.

The company will offer AT&T CallVantage customers an opportunity to participate in its program that provides up to one month of free service (maximum of 12 months) for each referral and sale, where permissible by state law. To date, the service is generally available to consumers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington state.

 Legacy Features Gone Hi-Tech

Through the use of IP-based networks, VoIP calling services also offer customers typical features such as call waiting, three-way calling, and call forwarding, just as legacy telephone service plans do, and far more advanced ones as well.

CallVantage will provide customers with innovative features including:

  • �Call Logs,� to track incoming and outgoing;
  • �Do Not Disturb,� to receive calls only when wanted;
  • �Locate Me,� which rings up to five phones, all at once, or sequentially;
  • �Voicemail with eFeatures,� to listen to messages from any phone or PC and forward them to anyone on the Web; and
  • �Personal Conferencing,� to set up meetings with up to nine additional callers.

Last month, the company announced the first in an ongoing series of service innovations including the addition of an online, searchable �Phone Book.� This new feature enables customers to store up to 250 names and phone numbers on their Personal Call Manager homepage with click-to-dial accessibility. 

All that is required for the at-home service is a plug-in telephone adapter (TA) provided by AT&T, a broadband Internet connection and regular telephone supplied by the customer. The company states that the service is simple to use and easy for consumers to install�typically in 10 minutes. AT&T CallVantage Service works with most cable modem or digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband connections. The TA is compatible with most home computer networks and may be used in conjunction with various home network routers. And, the adapter can be used from almost any location where there is a telephone and a broadband connection. That gives customers the ability to stay connected by taking this service with them when they travel.

For more information on VoIP services and why some customers are switching between various providers of these services, check out Why I�m Switching From Vonage Back To AT&T by Rich Tehrani (Internet Telephony July 2004 issue) at http://www.tmcnet.com/it/0704/po.htm.

AT&T CallVantage Service:

http://www.CallVantage.com

(866)816-3815 x70339

Johanne Torres is the Assistant Editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the Assistant Editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

Purchase reprints of this article by calling (800) 290-5460 or buy them directly online at www.reprintbuyer.com.

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