Cox Communications to Enter More VOIP Markets

The cable company's VOIP offer to look, feel and cost very much the same as its switched voice service.

Add Atlanta-based Cox Communications—the third biggest U.S. cable carrier, with 6.4 million basic cable subscribers—to the list of carriers ramping up VOIP offerings. The difference here is that the IP voice expansion is a way to grow its total voice market, which is presently overwhelmingly circuit-based.

Cox is planning to roll out VOIP services in U.S. markets not already served by its 7-year-old, circuit-switched Cox Digital Telephone telephony offering, expanding upon a promotional VOIP launch thus far limited to Roanoke, Va. According to Bobby Amirshahi, media relations at Cox, the residential service will be closely followed with a small-business VOIP package, aimed at Coxs high-speed Internet and data networking customers.

The news comes as part of a customer win announcement from IP infrastructure vendor Nuera Communications Inc., of San Diego. Nuera BTX media gateways, now deployed by Cox in Roanoke, will be added to serve customers in additional areas.

While many cable companies, such as Comcast and Cablevision, have entered the telephony market for the first time via VOIP, Cox has a pre-existing, circuit-switched telephony offering. The VOIP rollout will resemble Cox Digital Telephone very closely in both feature set and pricing, according to Amirshahi. This includes three-way calling and voice mail services, and a range of flat pricing plans, typically about 10 percent under those of incumbent telcos.

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"Our research shows that the consumer right now just wants a good deal on phone, something that works as good as what theyve been used to their whole life. As such, we dont feel that our branding needs to reflect VOIP, just phone service from a brand they trust," he said.

"We have a reputation for going after the business customer, and recognizing that it is a different animal," Amirshahi said. "Weve been very aggressive with getting fiber coax as well as hybrid, and Centrex services. For us to be able to do more voice using VOIP is just an expansion of our commercial services strategy. Commercial customers represent between 5 and 6 percent of our revenues today. We expect the bundling we do for consumers to be just as successful in our business markets."

Currently, Roanoke consumers connect to the service through truck-rolled cable terminal adapters. Those who subscribe to both telephony and broadband Internet data receive pricing discounts, but Cox provides voice to non-data subscribers as well.

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