AT&T guns for Sprint hosting biz

AT&T is making an aggressive play for government and commercial customers affected by Sprint's recent decision to move its Web-hosting customers to data centers run by other companies.

Sprint is negotiating with several hosting providers to become partners that will take over hosting for its customers, said Sprint spokesman Steve Lunceford.

The company may continue providing hosting services directly for a small number of customers and has made that offer to all of its federal customers, he said.

Sprint's partners will support several hundred other customers, he added. "The current customer base will be transitioned by the end of 2003. They will be given the opportunity to migrate to one of these partners," he said.

Sprint's competitors see the decision as an opportunity to capture new customers.

AT&T's transition offer includes flexible financing, "aggressive pricing," free installation and service-level guarantees. The company will launch an advertising campaign soon to woo customers of Sprint or other telecommunications firms that are scaling back hosting services.

"Our first priority is serving customers who already are stranded or fear that possibility as providers turn off the lights in their Web-hosting facilities," AT&T President Betsy Bernard said in a statement. "While others are scaling down their investments or even abandoning this space, AT&T has forged forward and fundamentally integrated our Internet data centers into our networking architecture."

Lunceford said AT&T's sales pitch is based on a misunderstanding of what Sprint is doing.

"They point out that Sprint may be losing a piece of an integrated offering," he said. "We are not losing that piece. We're just not going to be offering it directly. We'll be going through partners to provide it. It is clearly a part of our product component. We've ceased direct sales, but hosting is still very much a part of our product."

Competitors don't have much hope of winning Sprint's current customers, said Warren Suss, a telecom and information technology consultant and president of Suss Consulting Inc. Sprint's real challenge will be signing new telecom business.

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