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AT&T announced today it has won a $16 million networking contract from Whirlpool Corp., a world leader in the manufacturing and marketing of major home appliances. The company's retail brands include Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Bauknecht, Consul and Roper.

The three-year contract renews and expands an existing relationship by which AT&T provides Whirlpool a full range of networking services, including an Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP VPN), toll-free services, long-distance, high-speed Internet access and business continuity services.

The VPN solution integrates more than 140 Whirlpool locations across Europe and the United States and also provides a standardized technology platform that enables Whirlpool to gain operating efficiencies while lowering its investment costs. For example, the network's real-time online collaboration capabilities helped Whirlpool's European and U.S. designers and engineers speed development of the Whirlpool Duet clothes washer and dryer that successfully integrated European front-load technology with a striking design for U.S. consumers.

In addition, the VPN provides Whirlpool employees secure high-speed online access to corporate databases, and proprietary applications, including customer relationship management, manufacturing and supply chain systems. It also paves the way for Whirlpool to evolve to a converged voice and data networking platform by deploying Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in the future.

AT&T also will upgrade the AT&T ACCU-Ring(R) Network Access Service that links four Whirlpool locations in Benton Harbor. The ACCU-Ring's self-healing capabilities help ensure financial, customer relationship management and business data can flow securely and uninterrupted among the locations.

Additionally, AT&T provides toll-free services that support Whirlpool's customer contact centers. With AT&T's toll-free advanced features, incoming calls are automatically routed to an appropriate center, based on volumes, time of day and other factors. AT&T's advanced features also recognize repeat callers, so representatives gain immediate access to customer records, providing callers with faster service.

The solution is provided under an existing Virtual Telecommunications Network Service (VTNS) contract, which provides discounts across all services.

Whirlpool will use the AT&T BusinessDirect(R) portal, a secure online tool that provides real-time reports on network performance and direct access to AT&T's ordering, status, inventory, trouble management and billing systems. Using BusinessDirect, customers can reduce provisioning and maintenance costs and decrease cycle times for installations and repairs.

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