AT&T in Canada to join the VoIP bandwagon

AT&T Global Services Canada Co. talked about its business voice over IP (VoIP) services this week, closely following VoIP annoucements from Primus Communications Inc. and Bell Canada on Monday. However, according to Richard Blacklock, director, offering management, Americas region at AT&T Canada in Toronto, the company will not be offering the services until September 2004.

On Monday, Primus made available its TalkBroadband offering while Bell announced its IP Centrex offering.

AT&T will add VoIP to its fully managed WAN offering, said Teresa Aysan, VoIP most of world product manager and enhanced virtual private network (VPN) manager for Americas region for AT&T Canada in Toronto. “We’re allowing companies that have sites on their VPNs to enable them with voice. They would connect their router to their PBX (private branch exchange) and that would allow them to transmit their voice data between their own sites on their VPN.”

Additionally, the new service will allow calls to jump from the VPN to take advantage of local plain old telephone services (POTS).

AT&T’s operations in Canada have been primarily data-focused and it’s not that difficult to add voice to that equation, said Brian Sharwood, principal analyst at SeaBoard Group in Toronto. “It’s the question of finding a partner that will provide the equipment — IP PBXs — on either end,” he said.

Sharwood said AT&T is unlikely to be competing with Canadian telco heavyweights Bell Canada and Telus Corp. on VoIP because AT&T Canada targets multi-national companies, while Bell and Telus target the domestic market.

“Our target market is not necessarily Canadian companies with Canadian-only needs,” Blacklock noted, “though in isolated cases we certainly work those types of companies. Our forte is going over after U.S., European, Asian as well as Canadian multi-nationals, that have needs across the world.”

For example, AT&T would target a Canadian mining company with subsidiaries around the world in places such as Brazil and England. But for Canadian companies, Sharwood said AT&T’s biggest advantage is its U.S. connection.

“AT&T does have a pretty good network and one of the advantages it has is it connects to the U.S. Bell is weak in that area…and Telus is moderate to weak,” Sharwood noted. Additionally, Primus’s network does cross the border but Primus’s VoIP service is designed for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

However, some customers are buying VoIP solutions from vendors, deploying VoIP themselves and then just buying up fibre lines from the telcos to manage capacity.

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