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Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
4/7/2009
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Following trials in Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is preparing the nationwide launch of an "enhanced cordless phone" that will marry its VoIP service with email, voice mail, light Web access, and a universal address book.

The product features (deep breath!) a new Docsis/PacketCable-powered embedded multimedia terminal adapter (E-MTA) that provides an IP-based digital interface to a DECT-based wireless handset. (Sigh!)

Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453) is supplying Comcast with the initial version, but "there will be other manufacturers," Comcast senior VP of voice services Cathy Avgiris told Cable Digital News last week. A Thomson spokesman says the vendor plans to sell the product, dubbed internally as the Advanced Cable Gateway, to MSOs other than Comcast.

Show stuff

As for Comcast's plans, the MSO will link the new phone kit with SmartZone, a "communications center" Comcast introduced about two years ago that provides cable modem subs with direct access to their email and voice mail messages, an instant messaging application, and an integrated address book. (See Comcast Gets the (Unified) Message .)

Comcast finished moving about 24.5 million mailboxes to the SmartZone platform about two weeks ago, though the service went down briefly late last week due to some "technical problems" with the SmartZone servers.

Avgiris said Comcast expects to integrate SmartZone with the MSO's WiMax service, which is slated for a mid-year launch in Portland, Ore. Comcast, one of the Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) investors, hasn't announced any further deployment plans involving WiMax. (See Comcast WiMaxes Portland and Cable Plays Clearwire Card.)

Portland is an obvious target market, but Comcast has not spelled out precisely where and when the enhanced cordless phone will be offered initially. Avgiris said the MSO anticipates marketing it to "triple-play" customers for an incremental cost of about $5 per month. That will cover the EMTA and one DECT handset. Customers can purchase additional phones directly from Comcast for about $35 each.

Comcast is also working on a new home handset with a full keypad. "It's a spec'd product," Avgiris said. There's no word yet whether a future EMTA/gateway will bake in a Femtocell, as well, but Comcast is eager to link the mini-base-station technology to its forthcoming WiMax offering. (See Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells.)

Avgiris said Comcast views the enhanced cordless phone product as a retention tool, and as a way to prevent some customers from snipping their landline phone services in favor of wireless. "It's like a digital video upgrade, but on the voice side," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. "You get to keep the customers you have, and get more money from them."

The product may also help Comcast protect itself from other beefy kitchen phones that aim to enhance existing voice products. Of recent note is the Verizon Wireless "Hub," a broadband-fed home media unit that features a touch screen and bridges together the company's wired and wireless services. But that product, launched in February, isn't cheap. Verizon is charging $199.99, plus a $34.99 monthly service fee. (See Verizon's Home Hub-Bub (But No Femto) and 'Verizon Hub' Debuts Feb. 1.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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Alittletooraph
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Alittletooraph,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:37:11 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


At least relevant enough for Comcast to invest in something like this.  Their newer investments in Voice over IP for business make more sense.  I read somewhere that nearly 30% of people in the US no longer own a home phone, and that number will only increase as more and more people start relying on their smartphones for everything.  The only 'fixed' line that people should have (and by 'fixed', I mean an actual traditional telephone) is the one sitting on their desk in the office.  


As far as I can tell, all the major providers are investing heavily in VoIP for SMBs.  Although I don't understand why Comcast's plans are so expensive...  There are plenty of other hosted services that do exactly what they do for much cheaper, and offer more control, no contracts etc.  Here's an example:  OnSIP

nealbert
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nealbert,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:31:32 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


Comcast should concentrate on businesses.  Home phone service is dying.


AVAD Technologies: Business VoIP Provider 

jsmithstone
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jsmithstone,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:29:14 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


Comcast does appear to increasing its focus in the business voip service market and is getting more aggressive in its offerings and advertising. Do a quick google search for "business voip" and it seems like comcast is always at the top of the advertising list for what would appear to be keywords that are expensive and competitive to bid for in Google.

SergeyVoice
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SergeyVoice,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:13:12 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


There is no really big market, but anyway some need this for tests and departments, so wlike any other stuff will be okay, maybe it will be good upsell with voip service and other telecom services!

JCBlack
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JCBlack,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:21:33 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


Think it is a cool phone and reasonably priced considering it handles Voip Phone Service seemlessly and has many features that one usually finds only on cell phones or more expensive phone equipment. 

thinkbright
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thinkbright,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:16:14 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


Comcast should try enhancing the home phone with nifty features such as Voicemail to email and call forwarding. Things you only get with Business VOIP Services.


 


Jeff Jones


ThinkBright Multiline Business VOIP

menexis
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menexis,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:07:36 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


I'm not even sure how great of a catch the enhanced cordless home phone will be for Comcast because since Vereizon wireless HUB launched, there has not been much craze about that product.

Jeff Baumgartner
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50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:07:33 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


The Hub is an interesting product, but I imagine the high price for the device, plus a subscription fee, is keeping demand limited particularly at a time in which consumers are tightening their belts. As for Comcast's approach, the price at least seems right. $5 per month more isn't too much to ask for those new features if voice customers are truly interested in having them....but we'll have to wait and see if that's in fact the incremental cost they go to market with.

GaryEEE
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GaryEEE,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:55:31 PM
re: Comcast Enhancing the Home Phone


The price is right at five bucks but I don't know that there is a huge market for this amongst the non-teckys.  Perhaps they will push it when signing up new customers for voip service.

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