Cablevision Ready to Roll on VoIP

NEW YORK — Cablevision is moving to become the first cable operator to roll out commercial voice over IP services to its customers with a launch planned for later this month, an official of the New York-based company said Wednesday.

At a flat rate of $34.95 per month for unlimited local and long distance calling to its high speed data customers, the offer promises to be the latest salvo in a service-bundling war underway between broadband cable providers and telecommunications providers of broadband via DSL. Telcos such as Verizon, are increasingly offering customers a bundle of wireline voice, wireless voice and broadband services to customers.

During the Kagan Media Broadband Summit here, Tanya Van Court, vice president of product management for Optimum Voice, which is the name of the new service, said the service would also include caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding and three-way phone conferencing.

Other services the company plans to add in the future include enhanced instant messaging, unified messaging, and a “find me-follow me” service that lets the customer flag a caller — and only certain callers — about where the person can be reached, such as on IM or elsewhere, if the customer is not near the phone.

Other cable providers are currently in voice over IP customer trials or in the end stages of pilot testing with plans to roll out the service by the fourth quarter. The only other cable company offering voice services to cable customers as part of a bundled package of video, high-speed data and voice services is Cox Communications. But Cox’s service relies on the traditional circuit-switched method involving copper-based phone lines, while Cablevision’s plan is entirely digital, and on a platform it built itself.

Comcast, the nation’s number one cable company, is in testing phase and near a roll out, as is Time Warner Cable, the number two cable company, which said it plans to roll-out commercial voice over IP services by the fourth quarter.

A spokesman for Cablevision said the company currently serves about 4.4 million cable customers in the New York, tri-state area and plans to have the service available to all of its one million digital-ready customers by the end of the year.

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