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AT&T launches new contract bundle

November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 8:25 a.m. EST (1325 GMT)

by David Rohde

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- AT&T's latest bundled service platform is aimed at convincing corporate users to give the telecom giant all their business rather than splitting it up among several carriers.

The company this week launched AT&T Business Network, labeling it an "unparalleled combination" of bundled voice and data services, electronic-servicing capabilities and cost-saving opportunities.

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AT&T Business Network is aimed at two overlapping sets of customers: midsize enterprises spending between $50,000 and $5 million a year in total telecom expenditures, and fast-growing Internet-savvy companies such as the pure dot-com players or retailers with a heavy e-commerce focus.

The initial version of the offering, to become generally available in April 2000, will provide local, long-distance and wireless service under a single bill with trouble-ticket and other capabilities available on the Web. Later in 2000 AT&T will add frame relay, ATM and dedicated Internet access to the package, still on a single bill. Some 150 customers are expected to try the service on a controlled-introduction basis over the next few months.

Bundled services are not new at AT&T. For the past several years, AT&T has sold a package called OneNet, including voice, frame relay, private lines and other services, which provides a single contract to large enterprises, and a scaled-down version called UniPlan to small and midsize businesses. But those services did not offer a true unified bill and only gradually have incorporated Web-servicing capabilities. Other large carriers have responded with similar packages.

By contrast, the new AT&T Business Network offering is designed "to produce a truly bundled offer - it's a not a staple in an envelope," AT&T Business Services President Michael Keith says. The service is also the first generic AT&T bundle to include the local network and services obtained when AT&T bought competitive local exchange carrier Teleport Communications Group last year.

To produce the unified service, Keith says AT&T has been working for a year and a half on a brand-new billing and support system that is not a carryover from AT&T's myriad legacy billing and back-office systems. The new approach is a combination of outside vendors' software packages customized for AT&T along with internally developed modules. He declined to name which vendors are supporting the AT&T Business Network back-office effort.

AT&T says it will provide aggressive pricing for customers who select AT&T Business Network, though the best discounts will go to customers who agree to larger minimum annual commitments and certain growth incentives.

Keith concedes that while many users are looking for precisely this kind of bundled offer, many others actually are looking for a diversity of carriers following several carriers' recent network outages. "It's all about market segmentation," he says.

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