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Excite, AT&T service launches

The Web-based online service is the first among many similar services AT&T will roll out with other portals.

Excite and AT&T WorldNet today launched their joint Web-based online service in hopes of attracting new users with a package of services at a lower price point.

As previously reported, the cobranded service, called "Excite Online Powered By AT&T WorldNet Service," will provide Internet access and an Excite-branded interface for a monthly fee of $14.95 for 150 hours of service. The price, notably lower than the standard $19.95 per month, will be available to AT&T residential long distance customers for one year, and to non-customers for six months. Usage beyond the 150 hour limit will cost 99 cents per hour.

Excite also will feature a cobranded "Personal Communications Center" on its site, which offers AT&T telecommunications services such as long distance, prepaid calling cards, wireless services, and WorldNet access.

The companies also Portalopoly said that within the next two months, they will offer Web-based multimedia services such as anonymous voice chat, click-to-dial directories, and Web conference calling.

Today's announcement marks the first launch of WorldNet's cobranded Web-based online services. The Internet service provider has in recent months inked a series of deals with Web portal sites, including Lycos and Infoseek, to offer popular portals bundled with discounted Internet access.

While other ISPs have been raising monthly access fees, as seen yesterday with Pacific Bell, telecommunications companies such as AT&T and MCI Communications have adopted the strategy of bundling telecommunication services with Net access to build their customer bases. The deals also give the telcos prominent placement on valuable real estate within the popular portal sites.

"It's a customer acquisition tool," said AT&T WorldNet spokesman Mike Miller. "The way the finances work out, $14.95 is sustainable under the provisions we've established. When we balanced everything else, it seemed doable."

Bundling deals with portals afford AT&T the additional advantage of giving its subscribers more incentive to remain on the service.

"[AT&T] just wants to sign up customers," said Abhi Chaki, an analyst with Jupiter Communications. "I think AT&T is agnostic about who provides content to their subscriber. They want to provide content for all of their subscribers."