AT&T moves ahead with IMS, unveils VoIP service for its IPTV customers

* AT&T targets cable triple-play services by adding VoIP to wired, wireless services

AT&T announced a VoIP service for consumers called AT&T U-verseSM Voice. The IP Multimedia Subsystem-based service is designed to integrate AT&T wireline and wireless voice, broadband and TV services. It moves AT&T closer to its "three screens" vision of offering customers common content, connectivity and applications on the television, computer and phone.

AT&T announced a VoIP service for consumers called AT&T U-verseSM Voice. The IP Multimedia Subsystem-based service is designed to integrate AT&T wireline and wireless voice, broadband and TV services. It moves AT&T closer to its "three screens" vision of offering customers common content, connectivity and applications on the television, computer and phone.Although the service is currently only available in Detroit, it will be expanded to more markets in 2008. The service is positioned to compete with the VoIP offerings included in cable company triple-play bundles.

Like other VoIP services, U-verse Voice includes standard calling features like caller ID, click-to-call, a unified mailbox for wired and wireless messages, and an online management portal. And like other AT&T calling plans, AT&T wireless customers who subscribe to an AT&T Unity Worldwide Calling plan can call any AT&T U-verse Voice number without using up their wireless minutes.

But unlike other VoIP offers, the service also offers some U-verse video subscribers TV-screen access to call history and a click to call feature from a TV remote. Another distinction is that the service is built on a carrier-class IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) platform supplied by Alcatel-Lucent that integrates third-party components including IPTV software provided by Microsoft.

AT&T will still continue to market its CallVantage VoIP service to customers who don’t buy U-verse video services, particularly customers who live outside AT&T’s local phone service territory.

Our comments: We predicted that AT&T and Verizon would both offer a VoIP service as part of their consumer triple-play packages in 2008, and we also expected that a carrier would start to offer commercial VoIP services over an IMS platform this year. But frankly, we didn’t expect it so soon, and we will watch with interest to see if Verizon follows suit and also watch to see if either company is brave enough to offer a fully standard IMS-based enterprise VoIP solution this year.

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