MCI to Enter Market With 800 Service

Associated Press

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.


Until more sophisticated computer programs are in place, only AT&T; has the technology to offer subscribers a choice of numbers, such as those which allow customers to advertise a number that spells out a message or name.

A federal court has ruled that AT&T; need not make that technology available to its competitors.

MCI said its 800 service will provide 48-state coverage, plus options to handle calls from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and select international locations.

Calls that use the 800 area code are paid for by the party receiving the call.


In June, Western Union announced that it would begin offering a similar service.