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McLeod plans Voice Over IP product


Cedar Rapids-based McLeodUSA Inc., which is traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol MCLD, recently announced its plans to start providing Voice Over IP technology, beginning in June to its business customers and soon after that to its residential customers. The Business Record spoke with Greg Crosby, McLeodUSA’s group vice president of marketing, who described what the technology will mean for its customers.

Q: What is Voice Over IP, and how is this technology an improvement over existing capabilities?

A: Essentially what we’re doing is utilizing the Internet Protocol, better known as packet technology, that’s primarily in place for the Internet today. The ability to make traditional phone calls over that technology has really developed over the last several years.

Q: What will this technology allow customers to do that they can’t do now?

A: Think of this as a platform where you can build several products and services on it. The first product is Integrated Access, for business customers initially this year. This will allow business customers to take what is known as a T1 connection, and mix and match multiple voice and data lines. They may have a bunch of voice lines into their business; this allows them to consolidate them into one line into their business and to have Internet over that same connection. What’s new about this technology is that it allows the customer to dynamically adjust their services without having to call us. They can go into a Web portal and order features on a PC interface.

Q: Will your customers be required to sign up for the service, or will everyone have the service as part of being on the network? Will they be paying more for the enhanced features?

A: It will be a separate service that customers will have to order and sign up for. Certainly the technology allows us some cost savings in our business in how we deliver services. It’s more efficient for us internally to provide this service, because with the Web portal we don’t have as much need for customer service calls, which are labor-intensive. We haven’t set our pricing, but what will happen in most likelihood is (customers) will see a price point that’s more attractive than services comparable to this.

Q: Will Iowa be among the first markets where this will be rolled out?  

A: We will introduce it in four to five markets in the late second quarter. I will tell you right now that Iowa is in the top tier of 20 markets that we’ve identified as very critical to getting this technology across our 25-state footprint. We haven’t identified the exact time frame for the top 45 markets across our service area.   

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