AOL Looks to Reboot With VoIP

America Online (AOL), once a titan of internet service providers that has lately fallen on difficult times, is pinning its future aspirations on Voice over IP. The company will launch a consumer VoIP service to its online customers in April.

America Online (AOL), once a titan of internet service providers that has lately fallen on difficult times, is pinning its future aspirations on Voice over IP.

Next month, the company will launch its long-rumored consumer VoIP service in the United States, announced AOL CEO John Miller Tuesday during his keynote address at the Fall VON conference in San Jose, CA.

In making the announcement, Miller said that VoIP’s time has arrived. “It’s big, big business and everyone has to pay attention to it,” Miller said, adding that AOL will benefit from its experience delivering consumer internet services.

AOL has been testing its service in Canadian and European markets.

In explaining the company’s decision to enter the competitive VoIP market, Miller pointed to historic “landscape changing” developments like email, and instant messaging. “Communication is the number one activity on the Internet,” he said. “Voice will become another part of the mainstream of digital life.”

Miller believes that VoIP is poised to cross the chasm from early adopters to mass market acceptance, but outlined what he sees as essentials for making the transition: “ease of use,” “packaged offerings” such as broadband, voice, video, and “customer support.”

In his speech, Miller identified AOL’s key partners in its VoIP venture.

Level3 of Broomfield CO will be supplying the underlying network, including regulatory compliance, local phone number portability and e911 service. AOL’s service, Miller said, will be a customized version of Level3’s consumer VoIP offering.

Westford, Massachusetts-based Sonus Networks will provide telephony switching and infrastructure for additional feature sets. In addition, Miller said, AOL will “be extending its partnerships with Time Warner Cable in the telephony space.”

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