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AT&T ups Internet ante

AT&T details a series of Internet initiatives that put using the Internet for phone calls and data transfers at the core of its strategy.

NEW YORK--In a major strategic announcement, AT&T today detailed a series of Internet initiatives that put using the Internet for phone calls and data transfers at the core of its strategy.

"These actions will help jump-start IP telephony. Our goal is to make voice over IP as easy to use as today's telephone service," AT&T vice president for Internet services Kathleen Earley said in a statement.

AT&T CEO Michael Armstrong is due to announce the Internet strategy and related AT&T initiatives in his Internet World keynote this morning. Today's news reflects AT&T's strategy to add IP-based telephony as a key component of its offerings, alongside its traditional switch-based phone service.

Yesterday, a senior AT&T executive proclaimed Ma Bell's new IP religion, saying the long-distance carrier would embrace Internet telephony in addition to the telecommunication giant's traditional switched phone networks.

Among Ma Bell's announcements, the phone giant said it will:

  • Let ISPs establish IP telephony services to 140 nations worldwide, including North America, Asia, Europe, and South America. AT&T's Global Clearinghouse will run a one-stop shop to manage relationships with partners worldwide, eliminating that headache for ISPs.

  • Give away, for the first time, a software development kit so outside developers can create new services that use AT&T's network. AT&T hopes the free tools, due next month, will entice outside developers to create new services to boost use of AT&T's network, including online gaming, shopping, education, and training.

  • Slash prices, only for October, on conference calls over the Net and for letting chat room users make anonymous phone calls to other chatters. The promotional price cuts affect Click2Dial Conferencing for conference calls; its Click2Dial Directories service for Internet users to locate numbers in AT&T's directory, then dial the call; and Chat 'N Talk, which lets people in chat rooms call other chatters while remaining anonymous.

  • Work with chat-related Web companies ChatSpace and Yack in moves consistent with Armstrong's strategy of Net-oriented partnerships. "Alliances are very much a part of our [Internet] strategy," Armstrong said last month. The long-distance giant already has Net pacts with Yahoo, Infoseek, and Lycos.

  • Set up and fund for three years an AT&T Center for Internet Research (ACIR) at University of California, Berkeley, to conduct basic Internet research and to bridge the gap between academic researchers and private companies.

  • Launch two future trials, one inside AT&T and the other with an unnamed financial institution, using IP voice phone services over virtual private networks.