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January 19, 2007 at 3:18 PM

AT&T: more than a name change

Now that AT&T has rebranded itself, it has two choices: to bundle services together, or to offer new services that go beyond consolidating four bills into one.

(The name change of Cingular Wireless to AT&T was debated some on this blog posting).

Today, the mega-company took a step closer in becoming the latter of those two. It unveiled a subscription service that will allow users to make free calls between its 100 million wireless and landline customers. When the customer has a wireless plan — through the former Cingular — and a wireline phone of certain values, they will be able to make and receive calls between the company’s wireless network and its fixed-wire customers for no charge.

Many news organizations incorrectly stated that often consumers get free calling within a wireless network, but this is the first time free calls have been allowed between wireless and fixed networks.

In fact, Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA already offers a form of this. It provides free calling to five phone numbers, whether they are landline or wireless, through its myFaves offering.

“This is a very clever move because it is a value proposition to customers that is not simply about price.” said Mark Winther, an analyst at IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass, who was quoted in a Bloomberg story. While wireless phone users may find cheaper plans, they won’t find a free calling network as vast as AT&T’s, he said.

Noteworthy: In addition, it’s worth noting that Ralph de la Vega, who was previously Cingular’s chief operating officer, is now AT&T’s group president of regional wireline operations.

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