SureWest announced the launch of a VoIP primary line product, branded as SureWest Digital Voice. The VoIP powered service offers packages ranging from a nationwide unlimited plan for $39.99/month to a “Digital Basic” plan for $12.99/month that offers 300 “anytime” minutes. The similarities to wireless package explanations are no coincidence. Unlike bring your own broadband (BYOB) VoIP services like Vonage, SureWest requires customers to subscribe to their high speed Internet service. They are marketing voice and data bundles that range from $71.98/month for 10 Mbps broadband and unlimited voice to $45.98 for 3 Mbps broadband and 500 “anytime” minutes for voice. SureWest Digital Voice can also be included in a triple play package. For plans that aren’t unlimited, incoming calls and outbound calls to other SureWest customers do no count against the minute allotment. SureWest Digital Voice adds unique features not available on their traditional voice product including simultaneous ring and a “Digital Phone Manager,” which is an online phone portal manager.
SureWest joins other traditional telecom service providers, including AT&T, who are embracing VoIP powered primary line service. These services are being marketed as cutting edge “digital” services to counter cable and other VoIP competitors who position their voice product as ahead of the “stodgy, old local phone company.” But telcos have something else up their sleeve as well. VoIP’s promise is that of a more efficient and less costly way to deliver voice. So while in the short term, products like Digital Voice hope to appeal to customers who are vulnerable to switching to the local cable company’s competing voice product, the long term prospects include migrating all voice service to IP, and the lower cost of network advantages it provides.