By Nick Patience AT&T Corp has finally got America Online Inc squarely in its crosshairs with the launch yesterday of an unlimited internet access pricing plan, for two dollars per month more than the unlimited plan it abandoned in May, when it said the network was being clogged by a small number of users who […]
By Nick Patience
AT&T Corp has finally got America Online Inc squarely in its crosshairs with the launch yesterday of an unlimited internet access pricing plan, for two dollars per month more than the unlimited plan it abandoned in May, when it said the network was being clogged by a small number of users who stayed online all the time. The new plan costs $22 a month for unlimited time – the same cost as AOL – and offers users up to six email addresses – one more than AOL – and 30 Mb of space on its servers for personal web pages. The service launched yesterday and AT&T insists it now has the network capacity in place to ensure its smooth running. It declined to be more specific, beyond saying it has added thousands of modems, since May. However, just last week WorldNet was hit by an email slowdown affecting about 10% of its user base due to the number of electronic greeting cards being sent as email extensions. AT&T would not say that it was deliberately targeting AOL, but it’s obvious who’s got the lead, it acknowledged while citing adding customer value, as the reason for the price and service increase. AT&T went to Tribal Voice Inc for its PowWow community communication tools, which enable users to form their own communities for chat, buddy lists and bulletin boards. AT&T is calling the free instant messaging part of the PowWow-based service IM Here, and with it, users will be able to send and receive instant messages from other WorldNet customers as well as other PowWow users, of which there are more than three million so far, in more than 10,000 communities. AOL has had instant messaging capabilities and buddy lists for years and earlier this year bought the Israeli company Mirabilis Ltd, purveyor of the ICQ instant messenger system, which now claims more than 21 million users. That is in addition to the 14 million AOL user base, although there is some overlap. Unlike ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger, Tribal Voice also offers the ability for users to establish their own small online special- interest communities, for which it charges $50 a year. AT&T will also be offering these PowWow community hosting capabilities, but will not charge for the first year for a 10-person community. There’s no word what it will charge after that. It sounds to us as if Tribal Voice has waived the fee rather than AT&T swallowing it on the customer’s behalf, because there was talk from AT&T of a free service being part of this year’s contract and it will renegotiated after that. But neither company would go on the record about financial details of the deal. Tribal Voice was started in 1994 by anti-virus king John McAfee. The company has added a very un-AT&T-like ‘You’ve got mail email notification. This new AT&T plan does not supersede its other plans such the 150 hours per month plan for $20 or the $10 for 10 hours plan and the instant messaging and six emails will be offered with those plans as well, as of yesterday. But AT&T still has some way to go for its fast-growing WorldNet service to start worrying AOL in terms of numbers of users.