AT&T Looks to Intel for VoIP

AT&T and Intel have paired up to bring more Voice over Internet Protocol to the wireless world, officials confirmed.

Craig Miller, Intel’s VoIP platform marketing manager, told that the companies have inked a broad development partnership in which Intel is supplying AT&T with several reference architectures for routers, access points and other communications equipment based on Intel’s IXP 425 processor.

The 6-month old partnership comes as Bedminster, N.J.-based AT&T is shifting focus from switch-based to IP-based telephony and networking services.

An AT&T spokesperson was not immediately available for comment, but an Associated Press report suggests the pact means AT&T is looking at Intel as a key partner for wireless technologies like WiMAX . The metro area wireless technology could serve as an alternative to last-mile technologies to deliver a range of services, including VoIP.

Intel’s aspirations for WiMAX are well documented with executives suggesting that the technology is perfect for rural areas. The company is slated to producing WiMAX-enabled silicon in late 2005 with products arriving in 2006. The first batch of products are expected to operate with a range of up to 30 miles and the ability to transfer data, voice and video at speeds of up to 70 Mbps.

Miller said AT&T does not own any last mile access and that WiMAX is a possible way for AT&T to get back in the game. Today, AT&T’s VoIP offerings depend on another carrier’s local service.

“If you look at how the Wi-Fi market just took off, VoIP has the same potential. It’s really poised for an inflection in the market,” Miller said. “We predict AT&T will be a major factor. Certainly there will be other technologies coming from the partnership but this is the first most visible fruit of this relationship.”

Miller said Intel and AT&T are also closely involved in collaborating in the various VoIP products and standards markets to advance the sector’s agenda.

Intel is not exclusive in its evangelism of WiMAX, with Miller admitting the chipmaking giant has had or is about to have conversations with the major service providers, including ones outside of the United States.

Another area of development between the companies is a chip referred to as “Office in a Box.” The chip already powers select Linksys routers, but has the potential to power larger-scale enterprise products.

“Think of it as an evolution of a consumer box,” Miller said. “We’re looking at something that could carry between four to eight phone lines and might support VPN terminations for secure office networking as well as serving as a wireless access point and a firewall.”

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