• United States

AT&T launches new VoIP services, targets consumers

Dec 11, 20032 mins

AT&T Thursday said it is aggressively expanding its voice-over-IP services with a new focus on consumers.

While the Bedminster, N.J., carrier has offered VoIP services to some business customers since 1997, under a new initiative AT&T said that it will be expanding its VoIP business services worldwide and begin offering new services to U.S. consumers next year.

The VoIP push is meant to target the growing number of broadband Internet users who are looking to simplify their voice and data communication by running them over one network, AT&T said.

The company added that it has had a fourfold increase in business VoIP customers this year alone, and recent trials have shown a growing demand in the consumer market as well.

AT&T said that it will start rolling out consumer VoIP services in select U.S. cities in the first quarter of 2004. Additionally, it is expanding its West Coast VoIP capabilities with an eye at targeting consumers in the top 100 U.S. markets, AT&T said.

The new services will offer consumers advanced call management capabilities and Web-based features, the company said.

The initiative comes on the heels of an announcement made by Time Warner Cable, a unit of Time Warner, earlier this month that it is partnering with MCI and Sprint to further roll out its VoIP offerings in the U.S.

A number of operators, including SBC Communications and Verizon, have been busy introducing the voice over Internet services in an effort to stave off rivals that are offering similar services without having to lay down new networks. Vonage Holding, for example, offers residential broadband phone service and VoIP services for small firms. Vonage was founded in January 2001 and now claims to have over 75,000 active lines, completing three million calls a week.

While multiple operators are quickly jumping into the VoIP market, interoperability and regulatory issues are still be debated. Regulators in some U.S. states, for example, are debating over whether the technology is a telecommunications service, subject to restrictions, or unregulated Internet service.