San Antonio — The Progressive Retailers Organization was at the Westin La Cantera Hill Coun
VoIP telephony continued its march onto retail shelves with three new deals inked last week by AT&T, StarNet and 8x8.
AT&T announced that its VoIP offering, CallVantage, will be sold through Best Buy and Amazon.com, the telecom's first retail partners for its Internet telephony service.
Both dealers will offer a $79.99 starter kit that packages a D-Link telephone adapter along with sign-up literature. Customers connect the adapter to a broadband modem (cable or DSL) and a home phone and sign-up for the service at home. AT&T is offering a $50 rebate on the box purchase and a six month promotional offer of $19.99 for unlimited long distance and local calling.
After the promotion expires, the service costs $39.99 for unlimited local and long distance calling.
CallVantage features include call waiting, three-way calling, call forwarding, call logs — to track incoming and outgoing calls — and a “Locate Me” feature that can automatically send calls to five different phones, all at once, or sequentially in an order programmed by the user.
CallVantage customers can also access voicemail from a PC and hold “personal conferences” with up to nine additional callers.
According to an AT&T spokesman, the company is rolling out an aggressive campaign for its VoIP service, looking to sign “a lot” more retailers. AT&T used the Olympics to debut a series of commercials to help “introduce and explain what VoIP is” to a mass audience.
AT&T began rolling out its VoIP service in April of this year and has since expanded it to 170 markets in the U.S.
Palatine, IL.-based StarNet, a wholesaler of dial-up Internet access in addition to a VoIP service provider, inked a distribution agreement with Kansas City-based Small World Communications to distribute StarNet's VoiceEclipse service through all of its 11 retail locations. The deal is StarNet's first retail foray, and, according to director of business development Michael Alonzo, more are in the offing.
StarNet is currently offering its VoiceEclipse broadband VoIP service in 15 states on a direct-to-consumer basis, and the company is looking to secure distribution in both regional stores in the markets it currently serves and through national dealers, Alonzo said.
StarNet will offer an analog terminal adapter (ATA) through Small World Communications for a $49.99 activation fee. Consumers will have the device activated in-store, where they will choose from one of three calling plans, starting at $12.95 to $29.95 for unlimited U.S. calling.
StarNet's VoiceEclipse plans include call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail and a “Find Me” phone-forwarding feature standard.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based 8x8 said that it will sell its Packet8 VoIP broadband videophone and service through Atlanta-based Premiere Wireless Solutions, an authorized Nextel representative.
8x8 is currently selling through N.Y.-based J&R and through TigerDirect.com.
The company also announced updates to its calling features for its Packet8 broadband VoIP videophone, the DV326.
The new features include call return (*69), call waiting disable, do not disturb and anonymous call blocking.
The Packet8 videophone works on any broadband connection and connects to a modem via an Ethernet cable. It features a corded phone and built-in video screen with a CCD camera for streaming 352 by 288 pixel video at speeds up to 256Kbps. It uses the H.263 video compression standard.
The unit is not compatible with existing videophones on the market, 8x8 said.
The DV326 features 5-inch TFT LCD screen with 23-degree to 90-degree tilt.
It can connect to a digital camera or camcorder, allowing users to feed still images or video through the videophone.
The Packet8 videophone will retail for a suggested $499 with a $200 rebate. A two-phone pack will come with a $500 rebate.
The video/voice calling plan, available on 8x8's Web site, costs $29.95 per month with a one-year commitment and offers unlimited voice and video calls to anyone in the U.S. and Canada and unlimited voice/video calls internationally between Packet8 users.
8x8 has a voice-only plan for $19.95.