In an effort to differentiate itself from other high-speed ISPs, EarthLink has formally unveiled plans to offer Voice-over-IP services via cable and DSL connections.
The catch is that EarthLink can offer the service without sharing voice revenues with the cable or DSL operator that provides the underlying broadband infrastructure. Though such a service could be considered a threat to network operators, the latest move by EarthLink could inadvertently nudge cable MSOs closer to offering similar services.
Using equipment supplied by Vonage, EarthLink will offer the new VoIP service, dubbed EarthLink Unlimited Voice, for a flat rate of $39.99 per month.
The service includes many features found in traditional circuit-switched offerings, including voice mail, caller ID, call waiting and call forwarding. EarthLink's VoIP package also allows customers to manage their account and retrieve voice mail via the Web, and select from about 115 U.S. area codes irrespective of where they live.
On the technical front, EarthLink VoIP customers must use a router to split their broadband connection between their modem and an EarthLink-supplied ATA (analog telephone adapter) box, which converts the signal from digital to analog.
EarthLink currently has more than 779,000 high-speed data subs, and offers services on most Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse cable systems. Comcast Corp. also offers EarthLink in the Boston and Seattle areas, and is running a multiple ISP trial with EarthLink in the Philadelphia area. Cox Communications is conducting a similar trial with Earthlink in El Dorado, Ark.