By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
AT&T broadened its residential VoIP push by diversifying its equipment suppliers, adding a national retailer, lowering service costs and expanding industry partnerships in a bid to dominate the nascent Internet telephony market with its CallVantage service.
The company announced a retail partnership with Circuit City. Effective this month, Circuit will stock AT&T's CallVantage kits in markets where AT&T currently offers its broadband phone service (170 markets in 39 states, or 80 percent of Circuit City's existing retail footprint).
The retail package includes a D-Link telephone adapter and a start-up kit for a suggested $79.99. Circuit is only the second national chain to stock the company's VoIP service; the other is Best Buy. The service is also being sold through Amazon.com.
Concurrent with the Circuit City launch, AT&T reduced the price of its calling plan. CallVantage subscribers can now make unlimited domestic calls for $29.99, down from the original price of $34.99.
Network-equipment manufacturers Linksys and Netgear announced that they will ship routers compatible with AT&T's CallVantage service to retail in the coming months. The announcements were made in conjunction with the unveiling of AT&T's VoIP Innovation and Interoperability Program (VIIP) designed to “foster the development, delivery and adoption of new applications, capabilities and devices to serve the needs of businesses and consumers utilizing AT&T's VoIP portfolio,” according to an AT&T statement.
Linksys will offer its Wireless G router with Voice and a VoIP-enabled wired router, while Netgear will deliver a combination wireless router with an integrated voice adapter. Pricing was not announced.
AT&T's interoperability program is based on proprietary specifications that select vendors test their hardware and applications against to ensure compatibility with AT&T's VoIP platform.
Charter members of the program include hardware vendors D-Link, Linksys and Netgear; silicon providers Broadcom, Centillium Communications, Intel and Texas Instruments; IP PBX vendors Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel Networks and Siemens; and carrier-grade softswitch and gateway provider Sonus Networks.
“Our vision is to stimulate the development of a broad spectrum of VoIP-enabled devices from chipsets, software and telephone adapters to a range of products such as corded and cordless telephones, Wi-Fi phones, game consoles, set-top boxes, routers, modems, PBXs and ACD systems,” said Cathy Martine, AT&T's senior VP for Internet Telephony.
The new equipment vendors will join D-Link, whose telephone adapter was the first product certified and is currently bundled in the CallVantage retail kits.
“Retail is a strong place to drive VoIP because it puts it in front of people,” said Steven Joe, president and CEO of D-Link. Joe said inexpensive global calling would drive VoIP's initial adoption, but it will not be a primary line replacement, at least not anytime soon.
The hardware field is likely to broaden further thanks to the participation of Broadcom, Centillium Communications, Intel and Texas Instruments who are working with AT&T to develop VoIP software and chipsets that can be offered to vendors for use in consumer electronic products.
One provider, Centillium, has already sold an AT&T-tested solution to phone maker Uniden (see Uniden Story, p. 8).
According to AT&T, these combined initiatives will help create a VoIP “ecosystem” that will enable equipment designers and manufacturers to deliver VoIP products to the marketplace that are certified to work with AT&T's new broadband phone service.
Finally, in an effort to appeal to consumers lacking broadband Internet modems but desirous of CallVantage, AT&T inked an agreement with Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs) to have access to the latter's Go2Broadband database of cable Internet service providers.
Under terms of the agreement AT&T will have access to the Go2Broadband Internet-based electronic commerce tool to facilitate orders for CallVantage and for third-party broadband Internet access. Customers who query AT&T about the CallVantage service but who lack a broadband connection can now order both from AT&T. They will be mailed a CallVantage self-install kit and, depending on the local MSO, a broadband access self-install kit or an order for installation fulfilled by the local cable company.
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