AT&T Wireless eyes enterprise

Cut free from its parent company, AT&T Wireless Group is on the prowl for corporate accounts, touting a strategy to echo its new-found independence.

Executives at the Redmond, Wash.-based company argue that gone are the days when enterprises judged deals based on whether vendors bundled a variety of telecom services into one package.

"Business customers are making rational buying decisions based on the differences in wireless as compared to Web hosting or frame relay or long-distance service," said Tim Finnegan, vice president of business sales at AT&T Wireless. "They go for the value of the transport and the best application based on the problem they need solved," he said.

But executives at Sprint PCS Group -- which is still firmly part of its parent company -- maintain a different view of telecom services bundling.

"I would strongly disagree that there is no need for bundling," said Jay Highley, vice president of business marketing at Sprint PCS in Overland Park, Kan. "But I think a lot of carriers have missed the mark with customers, since they think about bundling simply as a single invoice and have focused on the billing side."

Instead, enterprise customers frequently demand single access points to applications, regardless of whether they are using wireless or landline technology, Highley continued.

Officials for both AT&T Wireless and Sprint agree that enterprises are now convinced of the need to step up wireless data efforts.

Enterprises are making a huge push to buy wireless voice and data services centrally.

Crowley Maritime in Jacksonville, Fla., for instance, made the switch to a centralized model.

"It had gotten to the point where we were not consistently using like equipment and like carriers," said Wendy Whitten, Crowley's senior analyst for network services.

Whitten and others cited AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS as the main vendors vying for enterprise wireless bids. Verizon Wireless Inc. and Cingular Wireless Inc. to a lesser degree are making inroads to the enterprise, since completing moves to become national providers.

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