Who would have thought that getting into the home phone business after 150 years would be a good idea? Even though we inherited a "plain old telephone service" when we merged with ATT Broadband back in 2003, we thought our fiber optic IP network could power a new type of voice service: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Today, there are a few distinct types of VoIP. There is what I’d call "peer-to-peer" VoIP services, like Skype, which uses the public Internet and connects callers over their computers. There is also a "virtual or voice over the net" type of VoIP service, which uses a terminal adapter that connects a phone to a computer’s broadband Internet service and routes calls made to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) using the public Internet. Vonage fits into this category. Then there is a third type of VoIP that is "cable VoIP," which in our case (Xfinity Voice) leverages our privately managed IP fiber optic network to deliver calls.
The use of a privately managed IP network makes our phone service very different from the other types of VoIP. In addition to providing the reliability, safety and security all customers expect from their phone service, we can offer features not possible from non-facilities-based VoIP service providers. That’s a mouthful so let me explain.
With our phone service, we’re able to deliver a few really innovative things that our competitors have had a tough time delivering. First, we can offer universal caller ID. This means that not only can you see who is calling on your cordless phone screen, but also on your television screen and on your computer screen. Whether you’re watching a movie or surfing the ‘net, a pop-up window will appear with the phone number of who’s calling. It may not seem like a big thing, but Universal Caller ID has changed how our family thinks about the phone. The TVs in our house are on all the time, and now no one gets up to see who’s calling on the phone…it’s right there in front of you.
Second, we offer the ability to check and listen to voicemails from any broadband connection. Using our SmartZone Communications Center voice tab, you can log in using any web-enabled device and listen to your home voicemails, and treat them just like an email attachment. This is very convenient when you’re away from home, but are expecting an important phone call or when you want to share a special voice message. (There are other cool SmartZone features we’ve blogged about here.)
Finally, we have introduced a mobile app that runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch and we’ve blogged about that here. While one of the most popular features of this app is the ability to remotely control your DVR so you can record your favorite shows on the go, it also provides a number of other very useful phone features. My favorite is the ability to auto-forward calls to your home phone directly to your mobile device. In this way, if you’re at the beach or out of town, you’ll never miss a call. You can also receive "push" notifications that someone has left you a voicemail at home and you can check and listen to your home voicemail via the app. We hope to make the app work on as many different devices as possible, including Blackberry and Android.
Xfinity Voice fully represents what we at Comcast are capable of doing to completely reinvent and re-imagine what a consumer should expect from traditional phone service. As far as I can tell, the last breakthrough innovation for plain old telephone service came in the 1980’s with caller ID. We’re very pleased that so many customers have chosen our phone service – more than 8.1 million and counting – and we recognize that customers today have many options when it comes to their home phone service. We’re committed to listening to our customers and we’ll keep reinventing.