WASHINGTON — MCI said Wednesday that it will offer a nationwide alternative to AT&T's toll-free 800 service early next year.
American Telephone & Telegraph, which introduced the service in 1967, has a virtual lock on the $4-billion-a-year market. However, changes in local telephone switching systems make the complicated computerized call-routing technology available to AT&T's competitors.
In its announcement, MCI said it would provide customers with some refinements not available from AT&T, including detailed billing, volume discounts for small and large customers, and a pricing scheme more distance-sensitive than AT&T's.
MCI said it will also be able to provide a single 800 number for in-state and out-of-state calls. An AT&T spokesman said his company will soon ask for permission to offer that service as well.