RealTime IT News

8X8 Calls Level 3 for VoIP Expansion

Voice over Internet Protocol provider 8x8 is expanding its Packet 8 telephony service to 300 new markets, thanks to an agreement with network operator Level 3 Communications .

Among the new cities are Flagstaff Ariz., Beverly Hills, Bloomington, Ill., and Rockaway, N.J.

The expansion could help the company vie for customers against fellow upstart Vonage and carrier AT&T , which are in the midst of their own aggressive VoIP rollouts (not to mention a contentious trademark dispute over how they have named their respective services).

In a statement, CEO Bryan R. Martin said the company's subscribers have always asked for local calling for those who call them the most. "With the addition of these new area codes and calling centers, the Packet8 service covers as broad an area as any VoIP provider."

8X8 competes aggressively on price, charging $19.95 per month for unlimited calling in the United States and Canada. Its service was launched in November 2002 and includes features such as caller ID, conferencing, voicemail and call waiting.

Consumers and business are turning to flat-rate VoIP phone service because voice traffic over the Internet, or private corporate networks, is immune from regulatory and switching fees (at least for now) that are imposed on traditional long-distance calls.

In addition to cost savings, the technology works with either digital subscriber line and cable broadband hookups and call quality, once mired by interference and delays, is steadily improving. 8X8 also provides a video communications service.

Broomfield, Colo.'s Level 3 is seeing VoIP drive demand for wholesale network service. 8X8's larger footprint is possible because Level 3 recently extended the reach of its VoIP service from 73 to 300 markets.

Since January, traffic on Level 3's VoIP Local Inbound service has been increasing at an average monthly rate of approximately 30 percent, the company said. The service is supported by Level 3's softswitch platform, which has processed more than 300 billion minutes in voice and data calls since 1999.

Earlier this year, Level 3 launched a new offering to let service providers offer their VoIP-enabled toll-free numbers.

Dubbed "VoIP Toll Free," that service cut costs for companies and is being marketed to conferencing service providers, call center operators and voice portals.

Terms of this contract between 8X8 and Level 3 were not disclosed. In other news, 8x8 also announced that its Packet8 customer service line is now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

A spokesman for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based 8X8 was not immediately available for comment.