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Net Phone Firm Enlists Circuit City

The company expects to forge deals with other retailers as well to market VoIP service.

March 05, 2004|James S. Granelli | Times Staff Writer

Vonage Holdings Corp., a pioneer in Internet phone service, will launch its first major nationwide retail push Monday through Circuit City Stores Inc.'s 600 branches.

Vonage, which has 120,000 customers using its voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, service, is expecting a significant increase in subscribers, said Chairman Jeffrey Citron.

The Edison, N.J., company has not yet set specific targets, he said.

"Circuit City is the first retail partner, and you should expect to see a number of partnerships in the next few months," Citron said.

VoIP is a long-anticipated technology that is expected to ramp up this year. AT&T Corp. is expected to roll out its service nationwide by the end of the month.

The Baby Bell telephone companies and other competitors also are developing VoIP offerings.

The technology sends voice over high-speed lines much in the way e-mail is delivered. The voice signal is broken down into packets and sent over wires to the destination, where the packets are reassembled into the voice message.

Although a cable modem line or digital-subscriber-line telephone service is needed, VoIP offers calling anywhere in the world for lower prices than regular phone service.

In addition, VoIP typically comes with standard features as well as ones that, for instance, allow customers to receive voice messages on the phone, online or through e-mail.

Citron said the service would work with regular phones, including extensions.

The company provides instructions on hooking cable modem or DSL cords to the Vonage digital phone adaptor and on connecting extension phones.

Through Circuit City, Vonage is selling its digital phone adaptor and two months' worth of service for $99.

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