Qwest Widens VoIP Net

by Colin C. Haley

The carrier offers its service to business customers in more than 100 new U.S. cities.

Responding to demand, Qwest today announced a major expansion of its business Voice over IP service.

The Denver telecom launched OneFlex in August and has since made it available in 26 cities. Today's push brings more than 100 additional cities online, including Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee and Tampa, the company said.

Claire Mylott, a Qwest spokeswoman, said businesses of all sizes are interested in the service because of the conferencing and messaging features associated with it.

Qwest offers several VoIP options, including a bundled voice and data service that uses one high-bandwidth connection and an IP Centrex option for large companies upgrading from legacy to VoIP systems. Pricing is on a per-seat basis, but varies depending on a company's needs and access method, Mylott said.

By entering new markets, Qwest will increasingly bump heads with other business VoIP providers, including AT&T , whose strength is in the enterprise market.

Qwest's VoIP expansion comes amid mounting evidence that businesses are becoming more comfortable with VoIP. A number of companies, including Bank of America and Ford , have chosen VoIP in recent months.

The percentage of companies using the technology jumped from 3 percent last year to 12 percent this year, according to research from In-Stat/MDR. Higher adoption rates are found in larger business segments. In-Stat/MDR forecasts that middle-market VoIP penetration will reach 34 percent by year's end, with 43 percent in the large business segment.

"There are many different ways that businesses are migrating to VoIP," wrote In-Stat/MDR analyst Daryl Schoolar in the report. "Each installation requires a certain amount of customization. For service providers, this requires a more consultative customer approach than what they are used to with their traditional services."

Also, most firms will use a mixture of voice communication services and technologies, not VoIP exclusively, Schoolar said.

Qwest has been testing a consumer VoIP offering and is in the process of planning a rollout of that service, as well, Mylott told internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 9th 2004