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Monday, April 21, 2008

Comcast ‘casts’ triple play on VoIP providers

Riding high on the emergence of cable companies as VoIP providers, Comcast Corp. has recently announced the launch of its popular triple-play packages for small and medium enterprises, which would allow even small setups to benefit from the technology, in New England. Titled ‘Business Class Voice’, this service allows enterprises to access cable television, high-speed Internet and voice services at prices atarting as low as $99. Comcast, the largest cable television company and the second largest internet service provider of the USA, has seemingly decided to go full throttle in the $55 Billion US IP telephony market now, and would be expanding its territories in due course of time, according to company sources. While on one hand the VoIP industry is expanding like anything, there are clearly two areas which cable providers venturing into this domain are aiming at. First, the courtroom has become somewhat a second home to a majority of the VoIP providers, with practically every big player having copyright infringement cases to his credit. This, in turn, has resulted in a chasm in the boundaries of VoIP, which were being securely guarded by the watchdogs of these players, hence allowing cable operators to take advantage. The second area of concern, which is more specifically pertaining to enterprise VoIP, is the cost factor. VoIP providers often offer packages that are unaffordable by the SME’s.

Comcast seems to have relied heavily on the latter, with its packages starting as low as $99. The packages include calling features like auto attendant, call forwarding, call tracing, three-way calling and more, apart from offering a download speed of 16 MB/sec and software packages such as internet applications from Microsoft (including corporate class e-mail, Sharepoint and MacAfee protection). Comcast has also announced it would continue to roll out new services in the coming months. According to the company’s press release, Comcast wanted to give SME’s an equal opportunity to expand their business.

While this initiative by Comcast is definitely worth appreciating, it is probably worth noticing that the pace at which cable providers are entering the VoIP market might be too fast to match up to by traditional VoIP players. The wisest thing to do, if the big names are to continue their reign in the market, would be to form an alliance to combat this uprising, if you will, much like cable companies had done when they had sued Vonage for resorting to unfair means of retention marketing. The focus ought to be on providing better customer service at cheaper prices, and not on suing each other in order to extort revenues, since short term losses must often be overlooked for long term gains. They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. While the times may not be desperate as yet, another popular quote says Prevention is better than cure.

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