Verizon launches VoiceWing™ Net phones

WingedPigs™ to fly soon?

Verizon today announced the introduction of Internet phone calls in 134 area codes in the US. The VoiceWing VoIP service will be priced at $39.95 and requires a broadband data connection. But fear not, Verizon will happily sell you one of those through its DSL division, in which case you'll qualify for five bucks off the monthly tariff.

It follows hot on the heels of its rival, and former mothership, AT&T. AT&T completed the introduction ts first VoIP to 100 markets. Verizon is an amalgamation of (mostly) East Coast Baby Bells.

Verizon warns that the call quality will be equivalent to that found on the US cellphone network (ie, diabolically bad) and it can't guarantee that subscribers reach emergency services within a specified period, so it advises punters to keep a conventional circuit-switched phone around just in case of, um, emergencies.

So is there a market for it? Are there enough people who can pay north of $65 for their combined monthly landline tariffs and who can put up with terrible voice quality? Clearly this depends on how much they can save on calls, and how tolerant they are of the inconvenience. Until the call quality improves this could be limited to a group not much larger than today's radio hams. If and when it improves, things will start to get very interesting.

Analysts Mercer Consulting last month reminded VoIP providers to concentrate on improving call quality, rather than on whiz-bang features that only propeller heads could really appreciate.

Symbian founder Colly Myers recently described Skype here as a "magic trick" and a chimera, because it couldn't offer a global mass market service, and relied on hopeful tinkerers. Perhaps in respone to Verizon's new "VoiceWing" brand, the Skypes and Vonages could band together with some memorable that reflects their own chances of success. We suggest "WingedPig". ®

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