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Cox brings VoIP service to more cities

Company also plans to launch a business-class Net phone service in Roanoke, Va., as cable providers battle to gain market share.

Cable provider Cox Communications has expanded its Internet telephone service beyond Roanoke, Va.

The company on Monday said it is now offering its Digital Telephone service in Tulsa, Okla. In November, it will introduce the service to Lafayette, La., and by year's end to Baton Rouge, La., plus areas of western Texas, including Midland.

Cox also plans to launch a business-class Net phone service in Roanoke, according to a company representative.

The company already sells residential phone service to about 1.1 million homes and offices using traditional telephone circuit switches, which are expensive to own and operate. In new markets like Tulsa, Cox uses voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, which is less costly to manage. VoIP calls also can be up to 50 percent cheaper, because they travel over the Internet rather than the heavily regulated and taxed traditional phone network.

"We look forward to continuing to offer telephone service to a broader segment of our residential and commercial customer base in 2005," David Pugliese, Cox's vice president of product marketing and management, said in a statement.

Cable providers are accelerating their plans to use VoIP in a battle to gain market share of the local and long-distance telephone market. Major cable companies, including Time Warner Cable and Comcast, pose the greatest challenge to traditional phone service providers because they can offer "bundles" of discounted voice, video and broadband services, some analysts say.

Cox is selling a combined data, video and phone plan for $100 a month. By comparison, the company's most popular phone service costs $49 a month if purchased without any other Cox services.

By the end of the year, more than a million homes in the United States will drop their traditional phone line for VoIP, according to analysts. That number is expected to surge to 17.5 million by 2008, according to a study by The Yankee Group.