In a move that was widely expected, Comcast Corp. has announced it would market its Digital Voice VoIP service to 15 million homes in 20 of its markets by the end of this year, and expand the service system-wide next year. Comcast had been doing selective testing of DigitalVoice for more than a year.
The price will be set at both a la carte and bundled levels, and will include unlimited U.S. calling. For subscribers who receive their broadband Internet service from competitors, such as Verizon or Qwest, Comcast will charge $54.95 a month. Subscribers that already use Comcast for broadband Internet will fork over an extra $39.95 a month.
My take on this pricing is that it is a little bit high. Discounting the so-called "free" VoIP services, Comcast must compete against lower prices from its established phone company competitors and discounted, VoIP pure plays. For example, in Comcast's corporate home of Philadelphia, Verizon's Voice Wing charges $34.95 a month, and $24.95 if you get Verizon DSL.
Vonage's home user pricing plans are $24.95, but go as low as $14.95 a month for 500 minutes.
Comcast is playing the reliability card to justify the price differential. Rian Wren, Comcast senior vice president of voice services, says that because Digital Voice calls will travel over Comcast's proprietary network rather than the public Internet, the service will be more reliable than pure-play Internet VoIP providers can offer. And, what's more, subscribers will receive a 16 hour battery backup in case service goes down.
Oh yea? I get my broadband service through Comcast. Read my vent.