Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Cox Communications dives into VoIP

The cable provider launches its first Net-based phone service, part of a focus on smaller markets, where it wouldn't be cost-effective for Cox to offer its more traditional phone setup.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
Cable provider Cox Communications launched on Monday its first VoIP-based telephone service, part of an effort focused on smaller markets, where it wouldn't be cost-effective for the company to offer its more traditional phone service.

Get Up to Speed on...
Get the latest headlines and
company-specific news in our
expanded GUTS section.

Cox is selling the voice-over-Internet Protocol service in Roanoke, Va., the 12th market in which the company has begun selling cable TV, broadband and its Cox Digital Telephone service. In its 11 other telephone markets, the Cox Digital service relies on traditional telephone networking equipment called circuit switches, more reliable but more expensive to operate than VoIP. VoIP systems use the Net to carry their signals.

Internet speed
Shopping for a faster internet speed?
We’ll send you the fastest internet options, so you don’t have to find them.

All cable providers have been launching their own phone services--the first major challenge to the dominant local and long-distance phone companies. Cox competitors Time Warner Cable and Cablevision made big commitments to VoIP this year, mainly because Net-phoning systems are estimated to cost 10 percent to 30 percent less to build and operate than setups using traditional switches.

Locating local internet providers

Cox and its competitor Comcast have the luxury of time to make the technology jump, according to Janco Partners cable analyst Matthew Harrigan. Unlike their competitors, Cox and Comcast have sold telephone services for a half decade, and combined have 2.2 million telephone subscribers. That's nearly every cable telephone subscriber in the United States.

"Cox has a profitable phone business at a 40 percent margin," Harrigan said. "I don't think there's any anxiety where their voice business is going."

Locating local internet providers

The pace of Cox's VoIP releases could pick up. Smaller markets such as Roanoke represent 19 of the 21 other markets into which Cox wants to expand its voice service. VoIP is an ideal candidate--these areas might not generate the profits necessary to validate the outlay involved with a more traditional system, Cox Spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said.

"In smaller markets, it becomes a major question of whether you can justify the cost of circuit switched," Amirshahi said.