The folks at SBC are about to get into VoIP in 2005 according to their press release. The service, which seems to be bundled with for DSL users in SBC serving areas seems to be a clone of AT&T's CallVantage in feature set.
In talking candidly with an SBC spokesperson this morning, the current offering may or may not extend to non-SBC DSL customers in their serving area and may or may not be accessable to cable customers as right now those details are being worked out.
Translation - there's a lot of jockeying for position and SBC like any telco is looking at their assets and capabilities and seeing what they can get before they jump in any direction. This type of announcement is what is called "signaling" the market of their intentions, not so much of a product announcement or service availability release. What it's designed to do is tell the potential customers, partners and competitors that they're coming.
Given SBC's past lessons learned with DSL, my guess is they are thinking carefully and will want to roll out a product that is as good as their current POTS/PSTN service with at least the same features, if not more and better.
In my view without enabling customers on cable modem to access the service they won't be able to migrate their current PSTN users who are not already using VoIP too easily without some substantial inducements, hence the bundling they are likely to offer with DSL. Also, without the ability to use the VoIP service at locations other than their own home, where the users DSL lines and modems will be located, the full capability and utility of VoIP (i.e. being able to plug into any high speed connection anywhere and make calls) will be minimized and thus SBC would be coming out with a product that is inferior with either CallVantage, Vonage, Packet8, VoicePulse, Broadvoice, etc.
I also feel that given their rollout of HotSpots called Freedom Link that there is a bigger play here, just like I wrote about yesterday involving BT. That of becoming a different kind of telephony carrier. Given the announcements SBC made in the area of Freedom Link recently, my gut says they have more in store than what the slow to move cable operators have done in the area of WiFi and VoIP on a combined level. While this is speculation on my part, the tea leaves indicate that SBC knows VoIP is their future and they have to come out with an offering that is more robust than what the MSO's can muster.
VoIP is becoming an arms race and allies matter. Let's see who lines up with them over the next few months before this service goes beyond the trial stages.