Forwarding unwanted suitors’ calls to automatic rejections is an example of advanced services that providers hope will lure traditional telephone customers to voice over IP.

Upstart Internet phone providers are pushing novel features to lure subscribers and differentiate their services, as prices tumble.

One upshot could be a radical makeover for the lowly home telephone, held hostage by carrier monopolies for the better part of a century. New features could drive demand for more powerful handsets — such as those already found in some corporate offices — with large, interactive colour screens as well as computer processing power and memory.

That, in turn, could attract a software developer community, largely lacking until now, that would be dedicated to creating VoIP applications.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but sometime soon, voice will become a commodity, and these applications will become very important to set (providers) apart,” said Wayne Williams, a senior analyst at InfoTech.


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