AT&T Offers Collect Calls to Wireless Customers

AT&T, the company that invented the collect call, this week took the concept a step further by expanding it to mobile phones.

Customers can now make collect calls to mobile phones by dialing 1-800-CALL-ATT to access a new interactive voice response (IVR)-driven service called AT&T Collect to Wireless.
The service is available through a strategic relationship with 3CInteractive, a creative mobile marketing firm with a service portfolio including text and multimedia messaging, application development, campaign and compliance management, content delivery, and IVR integration, as well as turnkey media solutions, including the representation and sale of mobile marketing sponsorships.

When a user dials into the service, 3CInteractive’s proprietary IVR collects his name, location, and the name and phone number of the person he is trying to reach. The service then contacts that person, alerting her to the collect call and giving her the option to accept decline the charges. If the call recipient doesn’t answer the phone, the user can leave a collect message at the number.

In the past, these kinds of calls were available only to landline phones, but they traditionally required operator assistance. Current computer-based telephone dialing technologies make it possible to place a collect call without using an operator, explains Mark Smith, co-founder and chief operating officer of 3CInteractive.

Users can place collect calls from any mobile or landline phone—the service is not available from coin-operated phones—anywhere in the world. Collect calls cost $9.99 for up to 20 minutes of talk time.

AT&T Collect to Wireless is part of the 1-800-CALL-ATT product suite, which provides customers access to the AT&T network for all alternatively-billed calls, including calling card, credit card, and collect calls. The problem with offering this type of service in mobile environments in the past was that most mobile carriers could not handle the billing arrangements, according to Smith.

“The carrier hands the call off to us. We put the call out to the mobile device, and then handle all of the billing,” he says. “And we have proprietary security measures in place because mobile billing is very different from home-phone billing.”

Upon accepting the call, 3CInteractive uses text messaging to send the call recipient a receipt of the charges.

3CInteractive introduced the service late last year after extensive beta testing. The company is optimistic going forward, and is even talking to several foreign phone service carriers about making the service available overseas.

“There are a number of operator services companies that still offer collect calls to land lines, but it’s been a diminishing business as there are more and more cell phones out there,” Smith says.

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