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In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
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In The Forum:
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'Prudent For Us': Will Start Service Using Internet By 2005, Says CEO


Vonage In Print News

Rogers Edges Toward Telephony War v. BCE
'Prudent For Us': Will Start Service Using Internet By 2005, Says CEO


December 10, 2003

By Mark Evans

After much speculation, Rogers Communications Inc. will get into the telephony business by 2005 -- a move that could spark a war with BCE Inc., which dominates the residential and corporate telephone markets in Ontario and Quebec.

Ted Rogers, president and chief executive, told a UBS Warburg conference yesterday that the Toronto-based company will start a telephony service using Internet-based technology.

This is the first time Rogers has put a definitive launch date on its voice strategy. Previously, the company had said it would proceed when the technology was ready for prime time.

"2004 is acknowledged to be the year that the new technology in cable telephony will be launched on a mass basis. In Canada, my judgment would be it would be prudent for us to be one year later than that," Mr. Rogers told an investment conference in New York.

Rogers' much-anticipated decision to get into the telephony market comes as an increasing number of cable companies are jumping into the business. On Monday, Time-Warner Inc. said it had signed a deal with Sprint Corp. and WorldCom Inc. to send telephone calls over its cable network. Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. have started offering digital telephony services.

Cable companies are offering telephony service using Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which lets them send voice traffic using the same network that delivers broadcasting service. Cable companies are scrambling to get into the telephony business as they attempt to drive revenue by offering consumers a "triple play" of voice, cable and high-speed Internet service.

This year, UBS estimated it would cost Rogers $500-million to roll out telephony service to 30% of its basic subscribers. Rogers, however, has been cautious about moving forward due to concerns about the economic viability of telephony given the high investment costs.

Before getting into telephony, Rogers wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to prevent rival BCE Inc. from selling local phone service in discounted service bundles. It is also looking for the federal regulator to provide breaks to companies that want to get into the local telephone business -- much like it helped satellite-television start-ups ExpressVu and Star Choice establish a foothold in the television market.

In a research note published earlier this week, CIBC analyst Dvai Ghose said he is unenthusiastic about cable telephony in Canada and suggested investors may be disappointed if they have high hopes for VOIP.

"We are not overly bullish about cable telephony because, one, fixed line telephony is a declining regulated, low-multiple business; two, the price of a residential line in Canada is some 40% lower than in the U.S.; three, the cost of deploying telco quality Voip is prohibitive; and four, we do not see the case for inferior voice service."

Even if cable companies are willing to deal with the competitive and technical obstacles, Mr. Ghose said their plans could be disrupted if the carriers decide to "fight Voip with VOIP" by launching their own Internet-based voice services.

He said this would let the carriers price Voip services at a significant discount to regulated services to reinforce that Voip is inferior to circuit-switched telephony, and establish prices at a low enough level to make Voip even less attractive to cable companies.

"While such a strategy could run into predatory pricing issues, if the regulator is really serious about not regulating Internet services, it would seem contradictory to regulate the telcos Voip and not the cablecos VOIP," he said.

While Rogers has not entered the voice market, it and Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc. have been conducting tests of Voip technology. BCE CEO Michael Sabia said last week Bell Canada is also working on developing Voip services.

The Voip market is gaining momentum as the technology improves. At the forefront is Edison, N.J.-based Vonage Holdings Inc., which has 80,000 subscribers in the U.S. using its Voip service. The company plans to move into Canada later this year.



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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