RealTime IT News

Prudential to Offer Free Internet Access With Microsoft Content

London-based Prudential Plc, the U.K.'s largest insurer, reportedly plans to start a free Internet access service so that users can use its financial services online. Microsoft will provide content such as news and business information.

The service, starting next month, will have technology and telecommunications support from Virtual Internet Provider Ltd., a venture of Cisco Systems Inc., Fujitsu-owned ICL Plc, Softbank Corp. and Cable & Wireless Communications Plc.

Bloomberg News said the move follows that of other U.K. companies such as retailer Dixons Group Plc, which are providing free Internet access to attract users to Web sites from where they can sell products and generate advertising revenue.

By offering free access first, Prudential boosts its telephone and Internet banking venture, Egg, which competes with the Royal Bank of Scotland Direct Line and Midland Bank's First Direct.

"The aim is to become a leading electronic commerce player," Richard Duvall, Egg's director of electronic commerce, was quoted as saying. Prudential expects Egg, on which it will spend about 100 million pounds ($162 million) this year, to be profitable by 2001.