Qwest Communications International and Microsoft said yesterday that they would offer Internet phone service to small and medium-size businesses, starting in 2006.
The service will combine Microsoft's Internet telephony technology with Qwest's OneFlex Internet phone service. Qwest said that it was the first service provider to integrate the Microsoft technology into Internet telephone services.
Also yesterday, Time Warner said that it would introduce a Web phone service early in October.
Traditional phone calls use dedicated lines. Internet calls share the line with Web traffic and e-mail messages.
United States phone operators, including Qwest's rivals Verizon Communications and SBC Communications, are also considering the Internet phone market.
Private companies like Vonage and Skype, which is being bought by eBay, have drawn attention to Internet telephony with their services.
Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said that while the move from traditional phone services to Internet services would take years, the promotion of Internet services by more big-name companies should help such services gain popularity. Source