CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide
Networking

Cable companies vacillate on VoIP

The top five U.S. cable providers remain divided this week between traditional and cutting-edge ways to sell telephone service. That's good news for makers of old-fashioned phone equipment.

The top five U.S. cable providers remain divided this week between traditional and cutting-edge ways to sell telephone service. That's good news for makers of old-fashioned phone equipment.

Following an early move by Comcast, Cox Communications on Monday signaled that it remains wedded to the traditional circuit-switched network it built a half decade ago. With it, the company pioneered a cable telephone business that now has nearly a million subscribers.

Comcast, the largest cable phone provider in the world, with 1.3 million subscribers, is also sticking for now with its circuit-switched networks, a spokesman there said. "It's kind of a no-brainer for them, because they've both made a big commitment to circuit-switched," said Matthew Harrigan, a cable analyst at Janco Partners.


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


That's not stopping both from "dipping their toes in both camps," said Mike Paxton, an In-Stat/MDR cable analyst. Comcast has an ongoing trial of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology that enables phone calls using the Internet Protocol, the world's most popular method for sending data from one computer to another. And Cox already sells VoIP local and long-distance service in one market, Roanoke, Va.

Meanwhile, cable companies that are relative newcomers to the telephone business are embracing VoIP quickly to challenge their market-leading rivals. VoIP is popular with Time Warner Cable and id="5106133">Cablevision because, in part, it costs about a third less than traditional phone switches and can be installed more quickly.

Paxton expects a technologically divided landscape "during our lifetime" that could hurt network equipment vendors including Cisco Systems and others that made strategic decisions to sell just VoIP gear.

A Cisco spokesman, Jim Brady, denied any equipment sales slowdowns, saying that in the long term, "everything we are hearing from major systems operators is a formal focus on...VoIP-based deployments."

The split over technologies will help traditional telephone equipment makers such as Nortel Networks, Lucent Technologies and Alcatel, which sell gear for both technologies, Paxton said.

"The biggest impact of this division will be on the equipment vendors," he said.