In a move that waymarks the future of the global telecoms industry, America's Verizon Communications last week launched VoiceWing -- a cost-to-coast broadband phone service that enables subscribers to make unlimited local and long-distance calls via broadband VoIP (voice over internet protocol).

Although other US telcos have already launched similar services, the significance of the Verizon initiative is its scale, available across 139 markets in thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia.

For a monthly fee of around $40 (€33; £21.83), users can make as many calls of whatever duration they wish -- with the advantages of broadband internet access thrown-in for good measure. This compares with an average charge of $60 by local phone companies for traditional telecom and ISP services.

But is Verizon in danger of cannibalizing its own regular calls market? Bob Ingalls, president of Verizon's retail markets group concedes that it is. "But we are not worried about cannibalisation," he says, "we see this first and foremost as an opportunity to grow the broadband market."

Verizon is the largest provider of local and wireless telecommunications in the USA, and also the globe's largest directory publisher. It was formed in June 2000 by the merger of Bell Atlantic with GTE Corporation.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff