By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
AT&T fired its Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) volley last week, announcing the rollout of its CallVantage Internet telephony service to markets in Texas and New Jersey.
AT&T is initially bringing the CallVantage service to the Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston metropolitan areas and parts of New Jersey. The service will be expanded to the San Antonio metropolitan area over the next several weeks through a controlled introduction with additional markets in the state and the nation to follow early this summer, the company said.
The telecom company will initially carry the burden of customer acquisition, but according to a company spokesman, since the service is installed by the consumer, the company "has aspirations to sell the service through retail later in the year."
The CallVantage service requires a customer to have an existing high-speed Internet connection to the home, either cable or DSL. Customers can sign up for the service by phone or online and AT&T will ship a plug-in telephone adapter (TA) which the customer connects to a home phone jack and broadband modem to enable VoIP calling using a regular home phone.
D-Link is providing the adapter for the initial rollouts, but according to the spokesman, AT&T is working with a number of equipment vendors for CallVantage.
The company's VoIP plans are expansive, with a commitment to bring Internet telephony to 100 major markets by year's end. According to AT&T, the company expects to sign up 1 million business and consumer customers by the end of 2005.
"We view voice as the killer app for broadband," the spokesman said, adding that the cable MSOs that AT&T is competing with in the VoIP arena would welcome the competition of a nationally recognized communications brand to jumpstart the nascent market.
The appeal of CallVantage, the spokesman said, will be a raft of "market differentiators," value-added features, above call waiting, three-way calling and call forwarding, which will all be free. These include a Do Not Disturb feature, which allows customers to receive calls only when they want, while letting emergency calls ring in, and voicemail with "eFeatures", which would allow customers to hear their messages from any phone or PC and forward the voicemail as a file via e-mail.
To kick-start the AT&T CallVantage Service launch, AT&T will offer a special introductory rate of $19.99 a month for six months and $39.99 a month thereafter to those who subscribe by May 31.
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