The battle for local telecom customers intensified on Thursday with a variety of new service offerings, including AT&T entering three states with local service.

Sprint and BellSouth also introduced new products and pricing plans. (See related stories.)

AT&T, which already provides local service in Georgia, will now expand further into BellSouth’s coverage area by entering the North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana markets.

“North and South Carolinians and Louisianans now can reap the benefits of local competition by taking advantage of AT&T’s local calling plans,” said Kevin Crull, senior vice president of AT&T Consumer. “We’re delighted to be able to offer these consumers the ability to choose from a number of local phone service plans.”

AT&T already provides residential local service to over 3.8 million residential customers in a total of 27 states, including those announced today. AT&T now serves residential customers across all of the nine-state territory covered by Atlanta-based BellSouth.

“Regulators so far have resisted enormous pressure from incumbent monopolies to scuttle federal Telecom Act provisions that are just now allowing us to bring more choice and new services to residential customers. Consumers win with competition,” said Crull. “We’re banking on regulatory decisions at the state level in the next nine months that will continue policies allowing consumers a competitive choice for local phone service. They will be critical to the future of competition.”

AT&T will offer a variety of local and long distance calling plans in the Carolinas and Louisiana. For $26.95 a month in North Carolina and $29.95 in South Carolina and Louisiana, customers will get unlimited local calling; choice of three features such as caller ID, call waiting or three-way calling; and a combined bill for both local and long distance calls.

For an additional $3.95 per month, customers can bundle their local plan with the long distance calling plan AT&T Local One Rate Plus and pay just 7 cents a minute for all their domestic, direct-dialed long distance and local toll calls.

Residential customers in the three states can also opt for AT&T’s newest bundled calling plan, called One Rate USA. For a monthly plan fee of $54.95 in North Carolina and Louisiana and $59.95 in South Carolina, customers can get their choice of calling features along with unlimited local and long distance voice calls within the U.S.

Consumers who switch their local residential service from BellSouth to AT&T will be able to keep their existing phone number in most cases, and AT&T will pay all switching charges, the company says.

Morristown, NJ-based AT&T already offers local voice and data services to businesses in the Carolinas and Louisiana.