AT&T thinks small

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AT&T, the American telecoms giant, plans to outflank Britain's more established players tomorrow by offering deep discounts to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

While other telephone companies have concentrated on the market for large companies, smaller firms, including home-based businesses, have been ignored, it argues. Although the number of calls from any one business will probably be small, the sector includes 1.5 million firms and is growing fast.

AT&T will announce a flat rate for long-distance calls anywhere in the UK of 5.29p per minute on weekdays and 3.17pat other times, leading to savings of up to 35 per cent against BT's standard rates. A similar two- tier charge schedule will slash overseas costs almost in half, it claims. Joining the scheme will cost pounds 5 per quarter.

Initially, users will have to dial an extra three digits before their long-distance numbers, but next year the company plans to introduce a free "smart socket" device - to be plugged in between the phone and the wall - which will automatically route long-distance calls to AT&T's dedicated trunk lines.