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Study: VoIP to proliferate in U.S. households

The number of homes that use Net telephony should reach 12 million by 2009, but existing VoIP players could face hurdles.

The number of U.S. households that use Net phone technology is expected to reach 12 million by 2009, a new study has shown.

About 17 percent of all homes with broadband in the United States will use Web telephony in 2009, up from just 1 percent by the end of 2004, according to a study released Thursday by research firm JupiterResearch.

But companies that offer voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services may have to fight off two key challenges: landline companies that already have strong brand recognition with customers and the increasing popularity of wireless telephony among the younger population, JupiterResearch said.

"Just like we saw with DSL five years ago, VoIP start-ups will be extremely important in jump-starting the market and will motivate established carriers to develop their own VoIP services," Laszlo said. "However, it is unlikely that start-up VoIP providers will become a significant threat to the incumbent phone companies."

The Internet telephony market is already witnessing a major marketing push. Companies like AT&T and Vonage have slashed rates to woo new consumers.

Other companies have gotten into the market as well; EarthLink early this week announced software that lets people make free unlimited calls over a broadband connection.