March 17, 2005 12:04 PM PST

AT&T Net phone disappoints

AT&T's Internet phone service, CallVantage, had a paltry 53,000 subscribers at the end of 2004--a lesson in how millions of dollars in marketing and a well-known brand name don't always guarantee success.

AT&T has been famously guarded about divulging its CallVantage subscriber numbers, until it did so in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In the filing, the company said the results are due to an AT&T decision in July to stop mass-marketing services to consumers, the result of an increasingly harsh regulatory environment.

The long-distance telephone provider pulled no punches when it introduced CallVantage in March 2004. Last year was to be the "Year of The Giant," AT&T crowed at a major Internet telephone show, at which it trotted out seven-foot-tall basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to drive home its point. A memorable media blitz during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games followed, and AT&T vowed to have a million subscribers by the end of this year.

Analysts don't share the company's enthusiasm at this point. "Without changes, we have doubts concerning the achievability of the 1 million figure," wrote researchers from Halpern Capital.

AT&T spokesman Gary Morgenstern said Thursday that the current tally doesn't reflect the last four months of CallVantage sales, nor subscribers who have ordered the service but have yet to turn it on yet. He added that the company no longer markets this or any other home service.

"AT&T is focused on a rational versus irrational (advertising) spend," Morgenstern said. "We can't justify high cost of (customer) acquisition like some of our competitors. We prefer to be more prudent."

The CallVantage service uses voice over Internet Protocol software that lets an Internet connection serve as a telephone line. VoIP calls are free if exclusively on the Internet, as in PC to PC--or increasingly, from cell phone to cell phone--and typically $20 to $30 a month for unlimited North American calls to cell and landline phones. Such services from commercial VoIP providers and even traditional phone companies like AT&T are about $20 cheaper a month than traditional services from local phone operators, collectively known as the Baby Bells. That's largely because VoIP calls are unregulated.

Top VoIP providers, including cable operators and Vonage, typically have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. AT&T's tally is more in line with lower-tier providers like Lingo or Packet8, which don't have the worldwide brand recognition of AT&T, the original telephone operator nicknamed "Ma Bell."

To AT&T's credit, it has been through a lot in the last 12 months. Government utility regulators eliminated key fair-competition rules that guaranteed inexpensive access to the Bell operators' mammoth local phone networks. That played a large role in AT&T's subsequent retreat from the local phone market and in local phone giant SBC's pending purchase of AT&T for $16 billion.

SBC has told federal utility regulators that CallVantage will continue to operate after the merger closes, which should be this year or next. CallVantage will also likely be a centerpiece for future generations of SBC services, once the carrier's fiber-optic upgrade of its antiquated local phone network is completed, SBC executives said.

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AT&T hurts self
AT&T has in many ways brought about its own demise by it increasingly poor customer service and support. I signed up for and am using the AT&T VOIP product on two lines. It works wonderfully for the most part but has gone down completely twice in 4 months. I have spent a total of 5 HOURS on hold and 11 additional hours on the phone getting it working. Of course these are cell phone calls, primetime daytime minutes. They never called back after failing to solve the problem. I solved it myself, both times. AT&T says, sorry we are busy and sorry that you incurred all the costs, thank you for using AT&T. They have a good product and I expect glitches. But 16 HOURS on a cell phone on two trouble tickets? They wonder why more people do not use it? I have told well overt 100 people about the VOIP service and let them know that is a good product, but unfortunately, AT&T is not ready for prime time. I know that 25-30 of those afriends and associates have gone with Vonage or other services based on my comments. Hopefull SBC can turn that leaky old ship around.
Posted by BBonar (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Open VoIP devices
CallVantage adopted the same business model as Vonage for selling VoIP services: A consumer purchases a VoIP device (usually a FXO phone adapter) and selects a monthly service plan.

By locking the device to their own network, and forcing the subscriber to pay a minimum monthly charge, CallVantage has disenfranchised itself with consumers. VoIP should be a low-cost, pay-per-use communications product; and VoIP equipment should be configurable to any service providers network.

By pairing CallVantage with FreedomLink, SBC has an opportunity to re-invent its VoIP strategy. CallVantage subscribers using a WiFon can access the Internet at any public WLAN hotspot (including Freedomlink hotspots) and make or receive calls, check voicemail, and SMS.
Posted by (12 comments )
Link Flag
AT&T hurts self
AT&T has in many ways brought about its own demise by it increasingly poor customer service and support. I signed up for and am using the AT&T VOIP product on two lines. It works wonderfully for the most part but has gone down completely twice in 4 months. I have spent a total of 5 HOURS on hold and 11 additional hours on the phone getting it working. Of course these are cell phone calls, primetime daytime minutes. They never called back after failing to solve the problem. I solved it myself, both times. AT&T says, sorry we are busy and sorry that you incurred all the costs, thank you for using AT&T. They have a good product and I expect glitches. But 16 HOURS on a cell phone on two trouble tickets? They wonder why more people do not use it? I have told well overt 100 people about the VOIP service and let them know that is a good product, but unfortunately, AT&T is not ready for prime time. I know that 25-30 of those afriends and associates have gone with Vonage or other services based on my comments. Hopefull SBC can turn that leaky old ship around.
Posted by BBonar (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Open VoIP devices
CallVantage adopted the same business model as Vonage for selling VoIP services: A consumer purchases a VoIP device (usually a FXO phone adapter) and selects a monthly service plan.

By locking the device to their own network, and forcing the subscriber to pay a minimum monthly charge, CallVantage has disenfranchised itself with consumers. VoIP should be a low-cost, pay-per-use communications product; and VoIP equipment should be configurable to any service providers network.

By pairing CallVantage with FreedomLink, SBC has an opportunity to re-invent its VoIP strategy. CallVantage subscribers using a WiFon can access the Internet at any public WLAN hotspot (including Freedomlink hotspots) and make or receive calls, check voicemail, and SMS.
Posted by (12 comments )
Link Flag
IS VoIP FOR EVERYONE?
Is VoIP for everyone... well that's a good question and the answer must be "absolutely YES"
However not everyone needs all the features most of these new upcoming superstars are rolling out needles to say not everyone has a microwave oven either. A full closet of services such as voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, not to forget an extra telephone number and the uncertainty that the 911 is going to work keeps people from making the switch. AT&T's numbers says that only 53,000 people has signed up for this new VoIP service since July of 2004, that must be a disappointing number for the old giant.

Now does this mean that VoIP is not going to make it and will it go away soon? ABSOLUTELY NOT as a matter of fact SKYPE claims that they are getting 50,000 new users daily and now has more than 24 million people using their service. I guess these numbers are also questionable but even then, they are impressive.

My question to you are! if AT&T can't make it even after spending millions of dollars on traditional advertising who can and how is it going to be done? their service is outradges I have been told that due to that alone it has keept people from using their service. One thing thou are still missing and that is, are all these providers just trying to reinvent the wheel, thinking that more money can be made from a service that should be free?

No surprises here, their is actually a company that are about to bypass all the VoIP providers combined and that company is NTRSource utilizing the AdCalls free dialer. How will and can they do that?
With more than 15,000 downloads daily, already bypassed the one million downloads of the virtual cell phone look alike dialer that in great length is being customized to look and feel as being part of large and small companies own free giveaway including their own logo and colors, they will indeed become a major powerhouse not only for the free VoIP service but also for some of the other free services that they are providing. How about free coupons and special offers from the local community, how about free streaming movies and lastly at least for now, how about being able to call anyone's telephone or cell phone in the US and Canada at no cost to the consumer.

HOW DO YOU GET A BETTER DEAL THAN FREE?

AT&T tried to sell their VoIP service and so does many other companies but the question still remains, how do you compete with FREE.
It's to be seen, but for now NTRSource seems to be the winner and you can get your free dialer right now by visiting their website and please do tell a friend.

Make it a great day.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.NTRSource.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.NTRSource.com</a>
Posted by ntrsource (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IS VoIP FOR EVERYONE?
Is VoIP for everyone... well that's a good question and the answer must be "absolutely YES"
However not everyone needs all the features most of these new upcoming superstars are rolling out needles to say not everyone has a microwave oven either. A full closet of services such as voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, not to forget an extra telephone number and the uncertainty that the 911 is going to work keeps people from making the switch. AT&#38;T's numbers says that only 53,000 people has signed up for this new VoIP service since July of 2004, that must be a disappointing number for the old giant.

Now does this mean that VoIP is not going to make it and will it go away soon? ABSOLUTELY NOT as a matter of fact SKYPE claims that they are getting 50,000 new users daily and now has more than 24 million people using their service. I guess these numbers are also questionable but even then, they are impressive.

My question to you are! if AT&#38;T can't make it even after spending millions of dollars on traditional advertising who can and how is it going to be done? their service is outradges I have been told that due to that alone it has keept people from using their service. One thing thou are still missing and that is, are all these providers just trying to reinvent the wheel, thinking that more money can be made from a service that should be free?

No surprises here, their is actually a company that are about to bypass all the VoIP providers combined and that company is NTRSource utilizing the AdCalls free dialer. How will and can they do that?
With more than 15,000 downloads daily, already bypassed the one million downloads of the virtual cell phone look alike dialer that in great length is being customized to look and feel as being part of large and small companies own free giveaway including their own logo and colors, they will indeed become a major powerhouse not only for the free VoIP service but also for some of the other free services that they are providing. How about free coupons and special offers from the local community, how about free streaming movies and lastly at least for now, how about being able to call anyone's telephone or cell phone in the US and Canada at no cost to the consumer.

HOW DO YOU GET A BETTER DEAL THAN FREE?

AT&#38;T tried to sell their VoIP service and so does many other companies but the question still remains, how do you compete with FREE.
It's to be seen, but for now NTRSource seems to be the winner and you can get your free dialer right now by visiting their website and please do tell a friend.

Make it a great day.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.NTRSource.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.NTRSource.com</a>
Posted by ntrsource (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WiFi Telephony
By pairing up CallVantage VoIP services with Freedomlink hotspots, SBC is helping usher in a new era of communications...WiFi Telephony.

CallVantage subscribers can use a WiFon (wifi phone) at any Freedomlink location to access the internet and make low-cost telephone calls. The WiFon is not locked to AT&#38;T and can be used with any VoIP service provider.
Posted by (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WiFi Telephony
By pairing up CallVantage VoIP services with Freedomlink hotspots, SBC is helping usher in a new era of communications...WiFi Telephony.

CallVantage subscribers can use a WiFon (wifi phone) at any Freedomlink location to access the internet and make low-cost telephone calls. The WiFon is not locked to AT&#38;T and can be used with any VoIP service provider.
Posted by (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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