Comcast picks up phone

Comcast will offer a portion of its Philadelphia subscribers telephony service over Internet Protocol beginning in second quarter 2003, the company's first foray into telephony over IP.

Comcast currently has 40,000 telephony customers in Michigan and Virginia, but they were inherited from other providers. When it comes to its own build-out, Comcast views IP technology as something that has matured enough to be ready for deployment.

Cable telecommunications equipment supplier Arris will provide the DOCSIS 1.1 carrier class cable-modem termination system to be installed at a mid-size headend in Philadelphia. Financial terms of the deal were not available.

Arris Broadband VP of Marketing Stan Brovont sees two advantages of voice-over-IP vs. circuit-switched. The first is lower capital cost per subscriber. "The main reason is, you can combine the cable modem and the telephony port in one box. The second key advantage is operational savings. Today, telephony and data must be operated as fairly independent networks from a maintenance and provisioning standpoint. When you go to IP, that collapses into one network, which simplifies the maintenance and administration of the network."

Brovont says savings can be as much as 50% of the capital costs per subscriber.