BellSouth on Thursday unveiled a service package that offers advanced Net phone features and allows customers to use its Internet-calling technology without having to buy as much networking equipment as would normally be required. The company is offering the service, which it will market under its Centrex brand, to a limited number of business partners and has plans to expand it nationwide by year's end. The carrier inked a three-year deal with Lucent Technologies in order to provide the package, which is likely to heighten competition between BellSouth and. SBC in November announced plans to sell a similar service in some markets and go national by year's end.
The new offering, like many such packages, is based on voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology that saves money by routing calls over the Internet rather than using more cumbersome traditional methods. Hundreds of BellSouth's business customers now use a version of VoIP that relies heavily on equipment that must be installed in offices. Gear for the new service is housed in BellSouth's network, the carrier says, alleviating the customer's burden of having to invest in lots of hardware. Lucent says it will be using its Accelerate VoIP products to power the new Centrex service. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed.