AT&T Signs Up With Tiger Direct

Though AT&T confirms that the company is moving its CallVantage VoIP service towards an exclusively SIP-based platform, the package deal with online tech retailer TigerDirect includes the MGCP-based DLink unit AT&T has shipped since launching six months ago. According to AT&T, CallVantage service with SIP devices from Linksys, Netgear and others will be hitting retail shelves in a few weeks.

TigerDirect.com, an online retailing unit of Systemax Inc. that specializes in tech products and services, is marketing AT&T CallVantage residential VoIP service directly to consumers.

“AT&T is looking for as many retail channels as it can find to distribute the service,” said Steven Titch, telecom analyst for the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, who likened the strategy to that of AOL offering its service through Gateway and a host of other computer and retail electronics outlets. “AT&T is following that same model itself establish its VoIP service.”

The AT&T move is a double-edged sword for companies like Vonage, Broadvox Direct, BroadVoice, VoicePulse and others, Titch said. While the TigerDirect.com relationship gives AT&T another retail outlet for CallVantage, it also helps legitimize the VoIP provider-retailer partnership, paving the way for the newer companies to expand those relationships they already have with Best Buy and similar companies to other retailers.

TigerDirect.com customers can find a starter kit for the CallVantage on the retailer's website by searching for "VoIP" or "AT&T CallVantage Service." The kit costs $49.97, and ships with a rebate of $50 from AT&T.

Interstingly, the kit includes a DLink DVG1120 router/firewall/VoIP adaptor based on the little-used MGCP VoIP protocol that has been part of the CallVantage offering since the service launched 6 months ago. Recently, AT&T announced agreements to market its service with SIP-based adaptors manufactured by Linksys, Netgear and Centillion Communications.

According to AT&T spokesman Gary Mortenstern, pre-packaged CallVantage boxes with two different Linksys devices – a wired router/firewall/VoIP adaptor as well as a wireless version of the device – will be sold within the next few weeks by Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon.com and other retailers.

AT&T CallVantage Service is available to any U.S.-based consumer and provides a local footprint to 62 percent of the households in America, according to the company.

When asked if the CallVantage service is moving towards being exclusively based on the SIP protocol, Mortenstern said “I think that’s fair to say.”

Mortenstern would not say, however, whether the company will be discontinuing use of the MGCP-based DLink device nor whether TigerDirect will offer one of the newer SIP-based devices when they are ready to market.

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