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Comcast service would connect home phone line to smartphones

Kids, remember good old cordless phones, those bulky handsets that allowed you to answer your home phone line anywhere in the house, and even a few feet into the backyard? Well, Comcast Corp. will soon begin offering a service that turns your smartphone into a cordless home phone with a very wide range.

Sort of. The company’s new Voice 2Go feature, to be unveiled later this summer at an undisclosed price, will let ComCast customers use their smartphones and tablets to make calls using their landline phone number, and theoretically avoid paying AT&T Inc. or Verizon Wireless for a monthly voice plan.

The service relies on a Skype-like app that you install on your phone or tablet, whether it’s an Android or Apple device.  The app can then make calls from home or public WiFi hotspots, or the device’s 3G or 4G data connection, if it has one.  So if you’re sitting at home or at a Starbucks, say, you can fire up the app and talk for free, and the person you’re calling should see your home phone number through their CallerID.

You can sign up to get your home phone calls forwarded to the app, too, closing the odd loop that makes your cellphone into a mobile home phone. 

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Why consumers would want to do that is not yet clear, however.  Comcast hasn’t released the service’s pricing, so it’s hard to say if replacing your cellular voice plan with Voice 2Go would be much cheaper, especially given the hassle of maintaining multiple plans.  That is, if you want to be able to receive Comcast calls anywhere, you still have to have a data plan from your cellphone company; you can’t just quit AT&T or Verizon, or your smartphone will only be able to make Comcast calls using Wi-Fi.

Still, the new plans show Comcast is continuing its fight to move beyond regular phone, cable and Internet services.  Just this week, Comcast and other U.S. cable operators announced a joint effort that would let customers of one cable company log into public Wi-Fi hotspots controlled by the the others.  With more free hotspots available to their customers -- and therefore more places from which to make free phone calls -- the cable firms may be hoping that the idea of bringing your home phone anywhere becomes more attractive.

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