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Net2Phone Adds New Wrinkle to Web Phone Calls

With competition in the Web-based telephony sector shrinking, Net2Phone Inc. moved swiftly Wednesday to conquer the market, rolling out a new service that allows phone calls over the Internet from regular telephones.

One day after competitor PhoneFree.com announced it was abandoning the PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone telephony business, Net2Phone launched the VoiceLine service to let consumers with DSL of cable access make phone calls without the need for a computer.

Net2Phone's VoiceLine allows a subscriber to simply plug a regular telephone into an add-on device that is connected to a cable or DSL modem. The device routes the phone call over broadband networks, making it a cheaper alternative to traditional telephone service.

To sweeten the pot, Net2Phone will hand out toll-free 1-800 numbers with the new service and allow subscribers to take incoming calls from the device, which was not previously available.

With the small but growing broadband market opening the door for this type of service, established players are in a mad scramble to cash in on offering telephony services over high-speed connections.

Net2Phone's primary competitors include Cisco Systems, California-based Dialpad.com Inc. and Silicon Alley's Deltathree Inc.

As previously reported, the new service is part of an agreement Net2Phone signed with Irvine, CA-based Linksys, which is manufacturing the add-one device.

"By routing phone calls over broadband networks, Net2Phone can provide consumers with an intelligent IP dial tone, offering services such as voice-activated dialing, voice portal services, and multiple messaging features with unparalleled voice quality," Net2Phone said Wednesday.

The enhanced services are expected to be available to consumer in coming months.

Net2Phone said VoiceLine customers would be billed similarly to a wireless one-rate plan. Calling plans range between $9.99 and $49.99 per month, which averages out the rates between 2.9 cents per minute for 1700 domestic minutes per month to 3.9 cents per minute for 250 domestic minutes per month.

International calls start at around 7.9 cents per minute. Users would not be charged for incoming minutes.

Net2Phone said VoiceLine customers can also track their usage on the Internet, and view all activities related to their calls and bills, including the time, length, destination, and charge for each call as well as a history of all payments and credits.



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