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AT&T adds more VoIP service

Voice with your VPN? While it trials a mass-market voice over Internet Protocol service, AT&T adds a third VoIP dialing option for businesses.

While it explores the possibility of cashing in on a mainstream Net telephony market, AT&T is continuing its efforts on the corporate side, introducing on Tuesday a new business-oriented VoIP service.

The long-distance carrier unveiled a third voice over Internet Protocol service, this one more secure, because it's being offered over a VPN (virtual private network) that AT&T sells to business customers. The service becomes available early next year.

The new service is significant because AT&T has been rumored to be using VoIP dialing to enter the local phone market. A representative for the company said though AT&T is trialing such a service, its focus for now is on using VoIP mainly to keep or attract business customers.

VoIP dialing uses the Internet, rather than a telephone company's privately owned network, to make phone calls. It's starting to catch on with consumers: Start-up Vonage recently passed the 50,000 subscriber mark, and downloads of the free broadband phone service Skype have passed 200,000. But like AT&T, most of the larger players are still aiming the bulk of their services at businesses.

"We are trialing a more mass market service now, but we haven't made any decisions yet," the representative said.