Cablevision Takes on Telcos

Cablevision takes on telcos with cheaper international calls.

Cablevision Systems Corp. on Wednesday said it will offer a simpler and cheaper international call rate plan in the latest salvo in the growing battle between cable and phone companies for subscribers.

The Bethpage, New York-based company said that its Optimum Voice digital phone service will offer international calls to any country in the world for 4 cents a minute, eliminating country-based pricing.

The World Call package offers its 900,000 digital voice customers 500 minutes a month at $19.95. This would be in addition to the standard monthly fee of $34.95 for unlimited calls within the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

When compared with other cable companies, Cablevision has the highest voice penetration of 20 percent of homes passed in its New York tri-state area customer base.

In recent weeks the battle between the cable and the phone companies has become more heated as the cable companies have claimed to have had major success in grabbing market share in telecoms traditional areas of voice and high speed Internet customers.

Comcast Corp., Time Warner Inc.'s cable unit and Cablevision all posted their best recent subscriber growth during the first quarter prompting analysts to say that they were winning subscribers from the their telecom rivals.

Patricia Gottesman, Cablevision executive vice president of product management and marketing, did not specify how much cheaper Optimum Voice would be than the average telecom's prices.

But she added, "As long as you can build products and services that have a broad appeal you have an opportunity competitively to make a difference."

Phone companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications offer country-based international calls with a variety of plans included discounted calls to specific countries.

Todd Mitchell, analyst at Kaufman Bros said international call price plans had more of an impact regionally across the United States depending on the demographic of the region.

"Where you're going to get the heavy usage is where you need to have the offering where communities are calling home to their families."

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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