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3Com to detail telecom, ISP strategy

Executives tomorrow will announce plans to ship technology that lets service providers offer the ability to send faxes and use calling cards for Net phone calls, among other services.

3Com tomorrow will further detail its strategy for improving sales of Internet-based equipment to telecommunications firms and Internet service providers.

Executives are expected to announce plans to ship new technology in April that will let service providers offer new Internet-based options to their customers, according to people familiar with 3Com. Telecoms and ISPs are an important market for networking equipment manufacturers such as the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm.

The offerings, which 3Com is calling "CommWorks Enhanced Services," include the ability to send faxes over the Net; use calling cards to make phone calls over the Net; and implement Internet call waiting, which will allow Web surfers to stay online and take a phone call at the same time.

3Com couldn't be reached for comment.

With the new gear, struggling 3Com is trying to tackle the emerging and potentially lucrative market for "convergence" products, which allows a service provider to build a single Internet-based network to deliver voice and data traffic. Most network equipment makers, such as Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, and Cabletron Systems, are racing to build technology that combines voice and data.

The underlying technology for 3Com's strategy is its existing Total Control remote access networking equipment, but the package also includes new software for Internet-based services.

In the future, 3Com further plans to offer universal messaging, which will let people get their voice mail, email and faxes from a single source. It also plans to offer Web conferencing and call routing--a service that can redirect a call made to a work phone to a cellular phone or voice mailbox.

With 3Com seeing declining profits from sales of networking equipment to businesses, analysts say 3Com's strategy to also focus on service providers is smart.

"They're really focusing on infrastructure--the hardware in their Total Control products and services on the software level. That's a strong play," said Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Laurie Gooding.