AT&T Corp., the largest U.S. cable television and long-distance telephone company, will give customers up to five months of free phone-over-cable service in an effort to meet steep year-end subscriber targets.
Beginning Friday and continuing through Nov. 15, customers signing up for AT&T phone service using cable lines in 10 cities will get free installation of up to four lines, free local calls and up to 300 minutes of long-distance a month, until Jan. 31, said Steve Lang, a spokesman for AT&T Broadband, the company's cable unit.
The company has said it expects 500,000 to 650,000 customers using cable for phone calls by December, including subscribers gained when AT&T bought MediaOne Group Inc. in June.
At the end of June, AT&T had 223,600 customers using cable lines for phone calls. AT&T Broadband Chief Executive Dan Somers said last month that the company had exceeded 250,000 customers that week. Lang did not have an updated figure.
"I'm hoping this [promotion] is just a short-term trial," said Kevin Roe, an analyst at ABN Amro Inc., who rates AT&T a "buy." "They're doing it to hit these subscriber numbers."
AT&T already offers phone-over-cable customers free installation and a free month of service, Lang said. Customers who accepted that offer are ineligible for the new promotion, which Lang said is being offered now because the company has the equipment and enough workers trained to install the service.
He wasn't immediately able to provide the number of technicians AT&T has connecting the phone-over-cable links, or the number of daily installations. The average wait for installation is two to four weeks.
After Jan. 31, AT&T phone-over-cable service will cost $19.95 to $52.95 a month, depending on how many lines and how many minutes of long-distance service customers buy, Lang said. That's 10% to 25% less than the local telephone company's rates, varying by market.
AT&T also is offering discounts on AT&T @Home, its high-speed Internet service, sold with Excite@Home Corp. AT&T assumed 74% voting control of Excite on Tuesday. In some markets, AT&T @Home is sold for $19.95 a month for six months, $20 to $25 less than typically charged. In others, AT&T will offer three free months of @Home, beginning Oct. 1, Lang said.
In a separate promotion in Colorado and Salt Lake City, AT&T won about 2,000 satellite-TV viewers by offering a $200 programming credit for customers turning in their dish and signing up for AT&T's digital TV service, Lang said. The trade-in offers ended this month. The company hasn't decided whether to extend them to other markets, Lang said.
AT&T had 16.1 million cable-TV customers, including about 2.2 million digital-TV subscribers, at the end of June. It expects to have about 3 million digital-TV users by year's end, Somers said in July.
New York-based AT&T fell 6 cents to $31.69 in New York Stock Exchange trading. Excite@Home, based in Redwood City, Calif., rose 44 cents to $14.63.
AT&T will offer free phone-over-cable service through Jan. 31 to customers in the San Francisco Bay Area and also in Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Hartford, Conn.; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City and St. Louis markets who sign up from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15.