AT&T refocuses on the enterprise

AT&T Corp. came charging back at enterprise customers with a spate of offerings at the ComNet show here today.

The Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based granddaddy telecom -- which has suffered its share of financial setbacks lately -- is the latest of the large carriers to espouse a renewed interest in enterprise offerings.

Specifically, AT&T unveiled a set of managed VOIP (voice over IP) services for businesses by bundling the offerings in the company's managed router services.

AT&T pitched the VOIP services -- along with new dedicated OC-48 Internet access, hosting bundles, and a managed PBX application geared at teleworkers -- as an "increasing focus on enterprise networking services."

The giant carrier's resurgence of interest in services that appeal to enterprises comes just as hard times are befalling its service provider customers.

Last year, service providers were the darlings of major trade shows such as ComNet. There larger telephone companies and major hardware vendors hustled to come out with products that up-and-coming service providers would use to build networks and offerings for small to mid-size businesses.

But now companies such as AT&T -- and WorldCom last week -- declared that they are now squarely back on the enterprise pitch.

With the entire telecommunications industry sagging financially, network hardware manufacturers also understand the importance of appealing to the larger business crowd.

For example, Lucent Technologies on Monday detailed an IP strategy designed to play to the survival instincts of many of its telecommunications service provider customers now desperate to appeal to larger business customers.

AT&T's voice-over-IP announcement is geared at enterprises such as Tower Automotive and NCR -- both beta customers that used the service through T1 connections and pre-configured routers to prioritize voice traffic in order to get necessary quality of service levels.

AT&T is offering the VOIP capability as a managed offering. In a related managed service push, AT&T debuted new SLAs (service level agreements) designed to get enterprise customers more interested in hosting scenarios.

A final AT&T announcement is aimed at enterprises now scurrying to outfit growing numbers of remote teleworkers. A new service, dubbed "Virtual Communications Services (VCS) for the Virtual Office," allows teleworkers to access corporate PBXs over the Internet.

VCS is another managed application that makes use of an IP-based VPN (virtual private network) connection to access a corporate PBX, letting the user take advantage of new soft phone applications

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