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Wireless meets cordless in Verizon phone

The carrier starts selling a handset that works on both landline and cellular networks, a move that could help it in the hunt for new revenue.

Verizon Communications is introducing a single handset that does the job of both a wireless phone and a cordless traditional phone, part of a hunt for new revenue in sluggish times.

The largest U.S. wireless carrier said Thursday that it has begun selling the hybrid phone, named "One," becoming one of the first telephone companies in the United States to do so. Inside a home or office, the phone is a typical cordless phone and uses a landline telephone connection. But it switches automatically to a cell phone network when it is out of range of its base station.

The combo phone is available now only in Chicago, where Verizon is conducting its first tests of the phones and associated service. Another trial run is planned for New York next year.

Company spokeswoman Briana Gowing said Verizon will expand the service into other areas, depending on how the trials go. "So far, the customers love it," she said.

Handset manufacturers first started work on combining into one about two years ago. Such hybrid devices and associated service plans are expected to be offered by most U.S. carriers in the near future, as they hunt for new ways to earn revenue while fighting a three-year sales slump.

There are several reasons why wireless carriers may be interested in combo phones. For example, the devices could help slow down a rise in the number of Americans who no longer have landline telephones in their homes, having decided instead to just use cell phones.

The hybrid phones also represent a new service that telephone companies can offer in their "bundles" of dramatically discounted broadband and phone plans.

For now, One phones and service plans are sold only by Verizon Avenue, which provides telephone and broadband services to residential apartment complexes. Gowing said the hybrid handsets have become part of Verizon Avenue's bundle of services.

The Chicago trial is among the largest such efforts yet by any U.S. phone company. Long-distance carrier AT&T has also made some hybrid phones available, but only to a small number of people working at a Boston-area hospital.

Verizon's One phones cost about $200, but the price could drop if Verizon decides to introduce the program nationwide.