Sprint Offers Packages For Small Businesses

The packages, which include data services, are designed to compete with local providers while helping Sprint penetrate the smaller business market.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) -- Sprint Corp. said Monday it plans to offer local and long-distance service bundles to medium-sized businesses in 29 cities.

The packages, which also include data services, are designed to compete with local telecom providers while helping Sprint penetrate the smaller business market. It also is taking advantage of the current popularity of selling complete packages of telecommunications products, mostly to commercial clients.

"That's the telecom du jour," said Greg Gorbatenko, with Marquis Investment Research.

The announcement comes only days after AT&T Corp. said it would stop actively marketing its consumer long-distance. Analysts said AT&T, which offers local and long-distance bundles for business, made the consumer announcement to focus more on its business customers, possibly signaling it is ready to increase competition in this segment

Competitors such as Verizon Communications also offer mid-sized businesses voice and data services packaged together.

Analysts who have been dour about the outlook for long-distance companies, such as AT&T and MCI Corp., are more sunny about Sprint's outlook, precisely because it has its own strong local-service network.

Mike McRoberts, Sprint's director of product management for local services, said the company has sold the bundles in the 29 markets since March but has not heavily marketed them until now. The markets include such commercial centers as New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. Sprint began testing the product bundles last year in six other markets, including Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis, Houston, Orlando, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio.

McRoberts said the product currently just includes landline products but could soon include wireless services as well. For example, Sprint could offer a company a single voice mail system for both its wireline and wireless phones.

"It does set the stage for the future integration of wireless/wireline services," McRoberts said.

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