A few hours afterShaw Communications said it was taking on SaskTel for a share of the local residential phone business, a Regina cable company announced plansto follow suit.

Access Communications said Tuesday it has applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to offer a digital phone service in Regina.

Assuming its CRTC application is approved, it hopes to roll out local phone service in Regina early in 2007.

Earlier in the day, Shaw said it should have its first residential telephone customers in Saskatoon on line by the end of the week.

It's a big change in the phone business in Saskatchewan. Government-owned SaskTel has had 100 per cent of the local phone market for decades.

SaskTel president Robert Watson said the Crown corporation has been preparing for local competition since regulation changes five years ago opened up the market.

In response to Shaw's announcement, Watson said he wasconfident thatthe majority of customers in Saskatoon would not switch.

However, he also acknowledged that losing too much of Saskatoon's market could effect SaskTel's ability to keep prices low in rural areas.

Both Shaw and Access plan to run their digital phone service over their own dedicated networks, rather than the public internet.

In that way,their offerings are different than voice-over-internet-protocol, or VoIP, phone services.