AT&T intends to put all its weight behind IP technology in an attempt to become the world leader, according to Michael Armstrong, chairman and chief executive in his keynote speech at Internet World in New York today.
He described the telecommunications giant?s purchase of cable company TCI and the deal it signed with BT to develop a global IP network as a "multi-billion dollar bet" on the technology.
TCI?s cable network reaches a third of all US homes, he said, and AT&T will use it to offer consumers pay-per-view movies, unified messaging and multiple phone lines.
The high Internet bandwidth capacity of the network would fuel the growth of e-commerce in the US, he added and AT&T would supply IP telephony to consumers, businesses and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
This service is already offered to consumers in three US cities and Japan and will be expanded elsewhere over time.
AT&T has also set up a new Global Clearinghouse to provide services to ISPs and telecommunications authorities to enable them to become IP telephony providers.
Members will use the Clearinghouse as a single point of contact rather than negotiating their own individual deals with other ISPs in different countries. It will also handle the billing and administration of phone calls over the Internet.
Some 20 companies covering 140 countries have already signed up, AT&T claimed.
But despite his commitment to IP, Armstrong said he feared that local US phone monopolies could endanger the growth of IP telephony by charging unreasonably high rates to customers for access to long distance services.
These amounted to six times the true cost of access in some instances, he claimed, but some Regional Bell Operating Companies were also planning to charge the same type of fees for IP telephony and other new services, which would potentially stifle the emerging market.
But, to further boost its presence in the IP marketplace, the telecoms giant said it was also starting two trials of Voice over IP (VoIP) Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). One is an internal project with a VPN connecting several AT&T corporate locations worldwide, while the other involves an unnamed financial services company.
To back these initiatives up, AT&T plans to set up a new VoIP interoperability laboratory either in New Jersey or San Jose, California, to focus on such issues as end-to-end quality assurance, peering of networks and billing.
The organisation is also establishing the AT&T Center for Internet Research (ACIR) in conjunction with International Computer Science Institute and the University of California at Berkeley.
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