Cisco Puts IP Calls Through on Phones

As of tomorrow, you will no longer need to buy an Internet Protocol phone to make and receive IP calls.

As of tomorrow, you will no longer need to buy an Internet Protocol phone to make and receive IP calls. Cisco Systems is rolling out a $210 box that links a broadband modem with a plain old phone. And other companies are right behind.

Cisco on Tuesday plans to introduce its analog telephone adapter, the ATA 186. The device, about the size of a caller-ID box, will let service providers sell lucrative add-on services such as Internet voice-mail and unified messaging to residential broadband customers.

Steam is building behind the residential and small-office markets for voice-over-broadband. Research First Consulting estimates that small-business voice-over-DSL will boom to $7.2 billion in 2005, from $169 million this year.

Like technology sold by Net2Phone, Ciscos ATA 186 works with cable, DSL and fixed wireless modems. Domestically, the product likely will target residential and small-office customers looking to add lines on the cheap. In developing markets, the product may provide primary phone service.

Though it enables services with plenty of gee-whiz for the consumer, Steve Toteda, manager of product marketing at Cisco, said carriers looking to wring value from their networks, like Global Crossing and Level 3 Communications, are likely to add the new capability to the menu offered to service providers.

Voicenet, a Philadelphia service provider partnered with Verizon Communications, has already deployed ATA 186. "Voicenet partners with Verizon, leveraging its access points and deploying the service from its own virtual central office," Toteda said. "This is the marriage of physical connectivity and the benefits of IP."

Net2Phone, which counts about 3 million users worldwide, has been slowly rolling out residential and small-business second-line service over broadband connections. Net2Phone technology, embedded in cable or DSL modems, splits the broadband line into four or eight IP connections, and recently added a voice port so customers can make calls.

"But what has been missing is inbound service," said Sarah Hofstetter, vice president of corporate communications at Net2Phone. Over the next month, Net2Phone expects to roll out an upgrade that allows users to receive calls. Under the banner, "Coming soon," the companys Web site features a box it says will enable customers to use their regular phones for calls.

Jetstream Communications, a San Jose developer of bundled voice and data delivery systems, is expected to announce a partnership with a major consumer electronics manufacturer and the launch of a residential and home-office voice-over-IP solution on June 4.