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VoIP Expands Retail Shelf Presence

8/19/2004 11:57:00 AM Eastern

New York — VoIP telephony continued its march to retail shelves with two new deals inked last week by providers StarNet and 8x8.

Palatine, Ill.-based StarNet, a wholesaler of dial-up Internet access in addition to a VoIP service provider, inked a distribution agreement with Kansas City, Mo.-based Small World Communications, to distribute StarNet's VoiceEclipse service through all of its 11 retail locations. The deal is StarNet’s first retail foray and according to director of business development Michael Alonzo, more are in the offing.

StarNet is currently offering its VoiceEclipse broadband VoIP service in 15 states on a direct-to-consumer basis, and the company is looking to secure distribution in both regional stores in the markets it currently serves and through national dealers, Alonzo said.

StarNet will offer an analog terminal adapter (ATA) through Small World Communications for a $49.99 activation fee. The ATA connects a home phone to a broadband modem (DSL or cable) for VoIP calling.

Consumers will have the device activated in-store, where they will choose from one of three calling plans, starting at $12.95 to $29.95 for unlimited calling within in the U.S.

StarNet's VoiceEclipse plans include call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail and a "Find Me" phone-forwarding feature standard.

"I see the VoIP market looking very much the way cellular looked 10 years ago. It's ready to explode,” says Kelly Yarborough, owner of Small World Communications.

Alonzo described VoiceEclipse customers as “cost conscience” consumers looking for an alternative to pricier landline calling plans. Though the company wholesales its dial-up Internet access to other providers, it is keeping its VoIP service in-house, unlike competitors such as Vonage, which offers its VoIP on a private label basis.

“We think it dilutes the brand,” Alonzo said.

Santa Clara, Calif.—based 8x8 said that it will sell its Packet8 VoIP broadband telephone and videophone service through Atlanta-based Premiere Wireless Solutions, an authorized Nextel representative.

8x8 is also selling its service through New York-based J&R and through TigerDirect.com.

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