Monday, January 30, 2006

EarthLink offers new VoIP service

Broadband provider EarthLink has begun selling a new Internet phone service that's designed to be easy to use and require no additional hardware.

The company has partnered with broadband access wholesaler Covad Communications to offer the voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, service in Dallas, Seattle and the San Francisco-San Jose area starting this week. EarthLink is bundling the new service with DSL (digital subscriber line) broadband access. More cities in Covad's territory will offer the service later this year; EarthLink would not specify which.

Unlike other VoIP services, including the one Earthlink currently sells for $20 a month, the new service doesn't require consumers to add hardware. Customers can use their existing phones and plug them into phone jacks as they would with any regular telephone service. The technology, called "line-powered voice," puts all the intelligence and equipment for offering VoIP service in Covad's central office, where all the gear to provide the DSL service is housed.

This approach differs from that of most other VoIP services, such as Vonage's. Those services require a special adapter to be hooked to the phone and the broadband connection.

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