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AT&T Adds VoIP to Network Services

Adding voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to managed networking services may be a routine step for telecommunications providers these days, but for AT&T , each roll-out is yet another leap from its core business.

The long-distance phone giant said it has expanded and added more Voice over IP (VoIP) services for all of its global managed data network customers.

Available in more than 40 countries to hundreds of businesses, the new service compresses voice calls into prioritized IP packets and routes them throughout each company's virtual private network (VPN) on AT&T's network, the company said.

The flat-rate feature is primarily aimed at helping enterprise customers place phone calls over the network from one enterprise site to another, said Joe Aibinder, director of VoIP and business services for AT&T.

Although AT&T isn't exactly urging its customers do away with their long-distance provider in favor of using an Internet network, the trend is moving that way with the latest feature of on-net to on-net voice and fax calls over AT&T's global data network.

"It is a fairly big issue for us to be able to say that in the future, traffic, whether it be voice or data or video, will all be converged on a common class of network," said Aibinder.

Since enterprises are working to use a common (Internet Protocol) language to integrate all of their applications, they would also eventually converge those applications on a similar transportation basis, he added.

"From our standpoint, we're not proposing to take away any set of (long-distance) services, but just hoping to simplify the way (they are) delivered. In the long run, we look at this and say, 'this is good for customers,'" added Aibinder.

Robin Young, a senior vp of managed services for AT&T, said international business customers will be able to manage their voice and data expenditures which could drive out extraneous costs. And the quality of voice calls over IP networks -- an ongoing issue with the technology -- has improved, she added.

Given the flat-rate pricing of the new feature, AT&T is looking to pitch the extra bandwidth competitively and entice more outsourcing customers to upgrade.

Even as VPNs become more complex, AT&T said centralized management of dialing plans and VoIP call routing would keep volumes under control as well as help manage efficiency to head off data traffic on the network.

The new feature for the company's MDNS supports WAN components for TCP/IP, multiprotocol and SNA network environments, including SNA-to-IP.

The roll-outs are becoming downright routine in international markets. South Korea's Thrunet Co., the country's largest cable modem broadband and Internet services provider, recently announced its launch of VoIP services for residential and small office customers.