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Three in ten homes in the US and the UK could hook up to Internet phone calls over the next three years, according to research published today.

Consumers look set to embrace Voice over Broadband (VoB) - but only as long as service quality is as good as traditional voice services, the New York Times reports.

Although many will be tempted by the offer of cheaper calls, punters will prefer to stick with existing telcos and cablecos for their Internet calls, researchers Mercer Management Consulting forecasts.

Punters have expressed their reluctance to side with those start-ups, such as Vonage and Skype, currently offering voice calls over the Internet.

Report author, Martin Kon told the newspaper: "It's an uphill battle for the upstarts with no customer base."

In March, the UK's dominant fixed line telco, BT, announced its own plans to enable punters to make phone or video calls over a broadband connection.

Last week BT confirmed its intention to migrate its national phone network to an Internet Protocol (IP) platform. The move will take five years to complete and should produce savings of £1bn a year for the UK's dominant fixed line telco.

The new multi-service IP-based network will carry both voice and data services and will replace the UK's public switched telephone network (PSTN). The mass migration of customers onto the new network is set to begin in 2006 with the majority shunted across by 2008.

BT Wholesale chief exec Paul Reynolds said the move to the IP network would provide the same quality of voice services as punters experience today.

"We want to be absolutely clear that using IP technology in our network for our premium quality services is a gulf apart from the new budget voice over the Internet services being launched almost daily by a wide range of providers." ®

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