WideOpenWest went out on a limb and launched a voice service over broadband via a joint deal with Gemini Voice Solutions. The long-distance broadband telephone service, WideOpenTelephone, will deploy with WOW's rollout of broadband Internet and digital cable TV service to Denver metro markets.

"We don't view it that way," says WOW spokesman Mike Steinkirchner of the risky technology. "That's what the trial is all about — to get comfortable with the technology. Now we're at the point where it works, and we know it works. We'll go ahead and market it as hard as we can. We're competing with AT&T in that (Denver) market and that's fine."

WOW will do that partly through bundling service packages, he says.

Steinkirchner could not comment on technical hurdles, but did say the "main issue with making it work is having a … high-speed service in place.

He also wouldn't discuss customer counts and projections, "because of competition."

"The overall message is it's ready, it's not difficult to implement," he says. "A lot of people think (the technology) isn't ready. We took a step and took a chance, and working with Gemini, we've got something."

The service, via Gemini, has undergone tests in Lakewood, Colo., since spring. The company says it has overcome logistical and technological hurdles and will "aggressively" market it in Denver.

The launch is WOW's first in a residential market, delivering packetized network-based broadband telephone service. The company says the partnership with Gemini allows WOW to provide a flat monthly fee, domestic intrastate and state-to-state calling, and international calling to more than 230 countries.

Plans include trials of Gemini's long-distance service in parts of the Midwest, where WOW is acquiring the Americast cable systems from SBC Communications. That deal should close in fourth quarter Steinkirchner says. Once it does, WOW will launch its high-speed Internet and other services over the system in early 2002, followed by the Gemini service sometime later that year.