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Let’s not forget some of the established companies that are finding they cannot ignore this growing technology. AT&T deployed a premium service called CallVantage in two states earlier this year. The service allows customers to make unlimited local and long-distance calls for $40 a month. AT&T claims the same service would cost consumers more than $60 a month on a regular phone line.

CallVantage includes many of the standard services such as voice mail, caller ID, and call forwarding. One unique feature offered by the plan is called Do Not Disturb. This feature lets you send all calls received during a specified time period to voice mail. If you choose, you can specify exceptions – that is, specific numbers that the software will not send to voice mail. CallVantage is expected to spread to several major markets before the end of the year.

The technology is catching on so fast that many of the major service providers have moved up planned deployments. Here’s a brief rundown of their current and future offerings:

CablevisionBegan marketing a premium VOIP service in 2003, asking $34.95/month for many standard features including 911 emergency service. By the end of the year, the company had generated 5,000 subscribers. Today, the service is marketed through more than half a million Cablevision modem connections.

ComcastAs the nation’s top communications provide, Comcast has been deploying and testing VOIP in the Northeast U.S. corridor. Before the end of the year, the company will expand into Indiana, Connecticut and Massachusetts. After that, the company plans to market services to its 1.3 million circuit-switched telephony subscribers.

Cox CommunicationsCox has been slower than some of the other companies to enter the VOIP market. However, the company plans to introduce VOIP in the mid-Atlantic states before the end of the year.

Charter CommunicationsCharter has also been slower in reacting to the new technology, but the company is developing a base in three U.S. market areas – including an initial launch in Wisconsin.

Many other companies are planning to capitalize on the depth of the VOIP consumer market. Researchers in the communications industry estimate that the number of residential VOIP subscribers will rise from about 135,000 at the end of 2003 to 3.9 million by the end of 2007.

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