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AT&T forms Net phone alliance

The carrier recruits Intel, Cisco Systems and other major players to create VoIP phone gear and applications.

Several major companies have agreed to create applications and equipment for AT&T's Internet phone services, as the carrier works to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Consumer electronics, chip and software makers will use specifications developed by AT&T to create telephone adapters, Wi-Fi phones, game consoles, set-top boxes and telephone networking equipment, the carrier announced Tuesday. The products developed in the VoIP Innovation and Interoperability Program will work with AT&T's Internet calling services, the company said.

"Our vision is to stimulate the development of a broad spectrum of VoIP-enabled devices," AT&T Senior Vice President Cathy Martine said in a statement.

The program is among the largest of its kind in the burgeoning industry for voice over Internet Protocol telephony. VoIP technology uses the Internet, rather than heavily-regulated traditional phone lines, for connecting calls. Such alliances are meant to streamline the development process while ensuring the interoperability of different manufacturers' equipment and software.

One goal of the program is to create unique equipment that will differentiate AT&T's Net phone services from dozens of rival services. Its VoIP competitors range from major telephone companies such as Verizon Communications to newcomers such as Primus Telecommunications.

Participants in the development program include chip providers Broadcom, Centillium Communications, Intel and Texas Instruments. Also on board are D-Link, Linksys and NetGear, which make home VoIP devices. Telephone networking gear makers are represented by Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Siemens and Sonus Networks.

The resulting products will have to pass tests to guarantee that they are compatible, AT&T said.