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Staples offers AT&T Net phone starter kit

The office supply chain is selling a kit that includes a Linksys router and instructions on how to sign up for CallVantage.

AT&T on Thursday said that office supply store Staples is now selling a kit that helps customers get started with the carrier's Net phone service, CallVantage.

The AT&T CallVantage Service Starter Kit is essentially a Linksys wireless router with a built-in adapter for letting users hook up phones to high-speed Internet connections; it also includes instructions on how to sign up for the CallVantage service. Staples is selling the kit in all of its 1,200 stores and on, AT&T said.

CallVantage, like other Net phone service packages, routes calls over the Internet, rather than the traditional telephone network, which is heavily taxed and regulated. Because Internet calls are not taxed, Net phone plans tend to be cheaper, though there are downsides, such as spotty voice quality and the service's reliance on electricity.

Still, such plans, also called VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services, are gaining acceptance because they can offer features such as call waiting, three-way calling and call forwarding at cheaper rates.

Additional features of CallVantage include call logs, for keeping track of incoming and outgoing calls; Locate Me, a feature for ringing up to five phones, all at once or sequentially; and Do Not Disturb, for receiving calls only when they're wanted. CallVantage also offers features that allow consumers to listen to messages from a phone or PC and then forward the calls to anyone on the Web.

AT&T is currently engaged in a price war with rival Vonage, with each trying to woo more consumers through innovative marketing strategies.

The starter kit is priced at $129.94, and a rebate of $59.99 is available with activation of the CallVantage service, said Gary Morgenstern, an AT&T spokesman.