VOIP services

Vonage, Charter Break It Off

Although a federal appeals court has given Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG) the temporary green light to sign up new customers, don't expect any of those to subs to come courtesy of the VOIP company's bundling pilot with Charter Communications Inc. . (See Appeals Court Lifts Vonage Injunction.)

The reason? That deal is dead and gone, according to a Charter spokesperson.

Charter, you might recall, began targeting worried Vonage customers last week with a marketing campaign offering same-day/next-day switchouts to the Charter IP telephone service. The irony was that Charter and Vonage had been piloting a $45 bundle that combined Charter's Internet service with Vonage's voice offering. (See Charter: Vonage Friend or Foe?) But that pilot project apparently has been put back in the hangar.

Although Charter, which recently crossed the 500,000 phone sub threshold, clearly views Vonage subs as targets of opportunity, it doesn't appear that other major MSOs are following suit. Considering recent cable voice growth, one can understand why they wouldn't even bother. Some examples:

  • Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) added 1.5 million Comcast Digital Voice customers in 2006 (versus just 290,000 in the previous year), extending its total to 1.9 million. Phone-related revenues jumped 45 percent to $955 million.

  • Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) signed up 211,000 Digital Phone subs in Q4, giving it 1.9 million total subs, or an 11 percent penetration rate of homes passed with the service.

  • Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) added 109,000 Optimum Voice customers in Q4, elevating the phone sub total to 1.2 million.
While cable operators shouldn't completely discount Vonage subs as acquisition targets, it's easy to see why they wouldn't trouble themselves with marketing tactics aimed directly at the troubled pure-play VOIP service provider. There appears to be plenty of low-hanging fruit available from the incumbent telcos.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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