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Priceline.com Adds Long Distance

Priceline.com this week added long distance to its rapidly growing product line.

The company late Wednesday unveiled Priceline Long Distance, a wholly-owned priceline.com subsidiary, that claims it can save callers up to 40 percent on standard base rates on domestic and international long-distance calls.

Carriers participating in the program are Net2Phone, deltathree.com and ZeroPlus.com.

Net2Phone , which agreed to participate in the program last year, signed up more than 10,000 customers in its beta test. ZeroPlus.com and deltathree.com signed on Thursday. In total, the three IP telephony companies account for the majority of all IP telephone calls from the U.S.

The new service differs from traditional calling programs in that customers go to priceline.com and set the price they would be willing to pay per-minute for a block of calling time. A database search determines if an offer can be accepted.

When a customer's offer is accepted, an e-mail is sent with the name of the provider that will supply service. To place calls using purchased minutes, the customer dials an access number, enters a four-digit personal identification number (PIN) and completes the call.

The service was created to embrace the fast-growing segment of the telecommunications market, said Daniel H. Schulman, president and chief executive officer of priceline.com.

"IP telephony now has the technology, quality and reliability to attract broad consumer and small business appeal," he said. "The time has come for IP telephony to go mass-market. We will leverage our brand-recognition and marketing expertise to accomplish that goal. We are providing a service with no surcharges, hidden fees, membership costs or minimum call times."

As part of the three-year marketing agreements with Net2Phone, ZeroPlus.com, deltathree.com and other IP telephony companies, Priceline Long Distance also receives multi-million-dollar participation fees from participating providers.

The program rolled out with a nationwide TV ad campaign featuring singing spokesman William Shatner.