updated 7/14/2005 8:09:56 AM ET 2005-07-14T12:09:56

Internet-based telephone services are still very inferior to traditional phone connections in reliability and sound quality, according to an extensive study that judged Vonage and AT&T CallVantage best among the top providers.

Keynote Systems Inc., known for measuring the performance of popular Web sites, also found that the reliability of Voice-over-Internet phone service is significantly affected by the provider of the high-speed Internet line used to dial a call.

Time Warner Cable and MCI Inc.'s UUNET business service scored highest on reliability.  Keynote found little variance in audio clarity among the broadband providers,

The study was based on 154,000 calls placed in May and June using six leading Internet phone services, or 22,000 each, and seven providers of high-speed Internet connections.

Keynote declined to disclose the full rankings from the study, which it is selling to clients but said the scores varied widely from top to bottom and that even the leaders had substantial room to improve.

Vonage, for example, posted the best score for service reliability with just 80 out of 100 possible points, but that was four times better than the worst of the six service providers.  Likewise, AT&T CallVantage took the top ranking for audio clarity with a score of 82, or twice as high as the worst performer.

Disruptions in the ability to make or receive a call was a key problem, the study found.  Keynote said service availability ranged from 99.4 percent of the time to as low as 94.8 percent, meaning that for customers of the worst performers, one out every 20 call attempts failed.

The other Internet phone services tested were Verizon VoiceWing, Packet8, Lingo and SkypeOut, the premium version of Skype for calls to a traditional phone rather than another Skype user.  The other broadband providers were Comcast Corp., SBC Communications Inc., AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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