AT&T CEO: Company's future hinges on VoIP

AT&T's CEO told attendees at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo that VoIP is key to his company's success, and it plans to aggressively pursue more enterprise customers.

SAN DIEGO -- The chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T believes that Internet protocol and VoIP technology are key to the company's future success, and that it will likely launch a new wireless phone and data offering once Cingular Wireless LLC completes its acquisition of AT&T Wireless Services Inc.

AT&T chief David Dorman, who spoke during a keynote interview Tuesday at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo, said that despite his company's recent downsizing and capital spending cutbacks, AT&T is ready to aggressively pursue more enterprise customers.

Increasingly, enterprises are looking for bundled and managed services, not merely network throughput, Dorman said. AT&T plans to provide those service combinations by pushing VoIP in areas where services such as caller ID and voicemail are inexpensive to provide.

"More businesses want managed network resources," Doorman said. AT&T is responding to that by providing security services such as firewalls.

Dorman said that the company will remain focused on enterprise customers. He said enterprises accounted for $25 billion of AT&T's $33 billion in revenue last year. It plans to appeal to these customers by providing new features, global services and increasingly focusing on IP offerings.

The proliferation of VoIP services will help demonstrate the value of AT&T's other IP services, Dorman said, adding that both commercial and consumer VoIP may turn out to be the killer app that convinces the majority of homes to purchase high-speed Internet service. As more businesses begin to adopt VoIP, AT&T will be in a good position to win that business as well, he said.

AT&T also expects to see significant consolidation in the data services market. Today there are 19 companies with $1 billion in revenue or more that are providing data services. That level of competition is not sustainable, Dorman said, and AT&T is optimistic that its fortunes will improve following an industry consolidation that leaves less competition in the marketplace.

Though AT&T has pledged to win accounts at all costs, not all customers have seen such aggressiveness. One AT&T customer who requested anonymity said that though her company uses data services from AT&T and Sprint, AT&T did not even respond to a recent request for proposal.

Attendee Brent Burgon, director of technical services at Beneficial Life Insurance Co. in Salt Lake City, Utah, said that AT&T's pricing was not as aggressive as those of its competitors.

Burgon said that his company is currently planning to roll out VoIP, and that an offering from AT&T might make that carrier more appealing.

For more information

Read why Cisco's CEO says networking success demands more than technology.

Learn why one executive says savings alone don't sell VoIP.

Separately, Dorman said the company hopes to provide bundled wireless voice service as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) next year when Cingular completes its purchase of AT&T Wireless, and the rights to that name then revert back to AT&T. An MVNO provides mobile voice and data services using another company's network.

Such wireless services appealed to attendee Burgon, who said that his organization currently reimburses its employees individually for their wireless service, a situation that is expensive and hard to manage.

Dorman said that AT&T's planned MVNO service, which it hopes to launch next year, would target existing customers with those kinds of business process problems, in addition to trying to woo customers away from Cingular.

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