Set-top digital cable boxes from Motorola Inc. will include Nortel Networks Corp. technology for making inexpensive Internet phone calls, once the fruit of a collaborative agreement between the two companies announced Monday hits the market.
Cable companies already use some cable telephony products from Nortel and Motorola. Nortel produced softswitches and media gateways -- computerized phone switchboard equipment -- for a German cable company, and about 700,000 cable subscribers have phone service using Motorola cable boxes.
However, those 700,000 phone lines are circuit-switched, and not VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems. VoIP sends a phone call over the Internet instead of using the voice telecommunication network, and is less expensive than a standard phone call. Cable companies hoping to compete with local phone companies are looking to VoIP for an advantage.
The two companies hope that by working together to ensure Motorola cable boxes in customers' homes can operate efficiently with Nortel phone equipment in cable company facilities, they will make it less expensive for cable companies to offer new digital phone services like VoIP, said Ann Fuller, a Nortel spokeswoman.
"Today a cable company would have to pretest them," she said. By working in advance to do testing, it will be "much faster for cable companies to deploy a VoIP network, and faster to deploy new services," she said.
The nonexclusive deal includes coordinated sales and support for VoIP products from both companies, as well as network planning, design, and implementation services for potential cable customers.