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Comcast due to roll out its phone service
The cable company's Voice over Internet Protocol residential system will compete with Qwest.
By Kimberly S. Johnson, Staff Writer
Denver Post 
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Comcast is expected to introduce its Digital Voice phone service this month in metro Denver, offering Voice over Internet Protocol residential service that will compete directly with Qwest.

Comcast Digital Voice, in other markets, allows customers to keep their existing telephone and telephone number in most cases.  Local and long-distance service is offered.

Comcast is the nation's largest cable-TV provider, with 21.4 million subscribers.  More than 700,000 of those customers are in Colorado.

Comcast officials in Colorado declined to confirm a launch date or provide details about the service.

In Boston, where the service has been available since May, Digital Voice costs $39.95 a month for customers who also get standard cable TV and high-speed Internet from Comcast.  The total cost of that package is $131.

For customers who want only the phone service, the cost in the Boston area is $54.95 a month.

Comcast has offered traditional switched-circuit service in parts of the Denver area and other markets.

Digital Voice is available in the Seattle, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston areas.

Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons said Comcast has been testing its Digital Voice service in Denver for some time.

"We have been quietly launching Comcast Digital Voice node by node, neighborhood by neighborhood, while conducting extensive testing and employee training," she said.

Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. said it added 46,000 Digital Voice customers across the country during the quarter ended Sept. 30.

It has big plans for Digital Voice, expecting to add a total of 250,000 subscribers by the end of this year and another 1 million in 2006, according to a Standard & Poor's analyst report.

Comcast might have to overcome a learning curve in Denver.

"It sounds cool, but I would have questions about the technology," said Jim McIntosh, a statistician from Highlands Ranch. "Is the quality the same?"

For those who have heard of VoIP, reports of inadequate 911 emergency service resonate more loudly than jumping on the digital bandwagon.

"I think I'll keep my Qwest service," said Marlean Dorsey of Aurora.  "I've heard about someone not getting through with 911, so that's a concern."

Comcast's system will have the capability to route 911 calls and identify the caller's location, according to the Comcast website.

In the event of a power outage at customer's home, the company also provides up to eight hours of backup power.

Vonage is the largest VoIP provider, with more than 1 million active lines.  Vonage makes use of other providers' broadband networks to send and receive calls using Internet protocol.  Comcast uses its own network to send and receive calls.

Vonage's monthly residential service starts at $14.99 and goes to $24.99.

"Vonage has had pretty significant growth because of that," said Janco Partners analyst Donna Jaegers.  "It will be interesting. (Comcast) seems to be positioned at a fairly high price."

She said Qwest could be affected over time.  There's a 5 percent market-penetration rate in the first 18 months to two years after a VoIP rollout, Jaegers said.

"Once Comcast puts their marketing muscle behind (VoIP in Denver), I think it can impact Qwest very severely," she said.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3199515