The multiyear contract puts GTE's own fast-growing ISP on the same email backbone as BBN Planet, a business-oriented ISP that GTE acquired for $616 million in May. GTE already has put BBN Planet and GTE Internet Solutions in the same business unit, run by former BBN chief executive George Conrades, according to a GTE spokesman.
"At some point in time, the name 'Internet Solutions' will undoubtedly go away. What the service mark will be remains to be seen, but it will bear the GTE name," said GTE's Bill Kula.
"Our intent is to move GTE from a basic wireline phone company with local phone service to an integrated communications company," he added. He said GTE Internet Solutions, with more than 160,000 customers in all 50 states, needs the "dial-tone" reliability of its phone business for Internet email.
"GTE needs to differentiate itself as it broadens into the long distance business, and Software.com provides them with the capability to do that," said Christopher Landes of TeleChoice, a telecommunications consulting firm. "Software.com provides very robust, very reliable capacity for email."
Already the second-largest local phone carrier in the country, GTE seeks to expand its offerings to become a one-stop provider of local, long distance, voice, data, and Internet services.
Another analyst thinks Software.com's software will boost GTE's ISP business. "Email is absolutely critical to people these days, and this should be a major step forward for GTE's Internet service," said Forrester Research's Kate Delhagen. "Bulletproof email will help GTE not only retain its current customers but also to attract new consumers who are frustrated with delivery or general access of other [Internet access] services."
GTE has used Software.com's Post.Office since March, but that software scales only to about 250,000 users, Kula said. The announcement that GTE is upgrading to Software.com's InterMail product signals its intent to top 1 million dial-up subscribers.
"This paves the way for us to begin packaging and bundling Internet and traditional voice and data services together on one bill for customers as we embrace the competitive marketplace," said Kula.