Las Vegas -- In a move that recalls the days of Ma Bell, Comcast plans to begin selling cordless-phone handsets by early next year that provide on-screen access to e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, address books and Internet-based phone directories.
Oh, and the phones also will be able to place and receive calls via Comcast Digital Voice service.
Comcast senior vice president of product development Greg Butz said the company will become the first landline-replacement voice provider to introduce a self-provisioned phone. "It's not just about the triple-play package," he added. "It's about making the triple play better."
The "enhanced cordless phone" -- Comcast will announce a brand name for it later -- will let users scan e-mail messages, listen to voice mail messages and look up phone numbers, either in a subscriber's personal, network-based address book or using a white-pages directory.
The phones fit into Comcast's broader strategy of more tightly knitting together voice and data offerings. Earlier this week it announced SmartZone, a unified-messaging portal expected to launch later this year, which will provide a single-screen view of e-mail, voice mail and instant messages.
The Comcast-branded phones will be sold through retail channels, as well as directly by the operator. It has not disclosed expected pricing.
Comcast already distributes cable modems and other products in nearly 5,000 retail outlets, including those of electronics retailers like Best Buy. "You have to be where it's convenient to shop," Butz said.
The company's initial manufacturing partner is a major cordless-phone maker Comcast representatives declined to name. Comcast expects Panasonic to supply phones later. The devices have an embedded multimedia-terminal adapter (eMTA) -- the device that connects to an Internet-protocol voice service -- built into their charger base.
Currently, Comcast is undergoing a limited trial of the cordless phones with "friendlies" in one unspecified market.
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