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EarthLink Rolls Out VOIP Service

EarthLink, Inc. , is letting North American's make unlimited Internet phone call for discounted rates to showcase its new Dialpad-powered voice over IP (VOIP) service, officials announced Monday.

The telephony service, available at the ISP's start page, is a value-add service officials hope will keep EarthLink customers at EarthLink and maybe garner them some new customers.

Until Nov. 29, EarthLink's PC phone service is available for $9.99 a month, with unlimited hours to calls around the world. Starting in December, the service will cost users $9.99 for 400 minutes of PC-based telephone calls.

The trial service is available for download at a special Dialpad Web page for the promotion (click here). Dialpad is currently in use by Cisco Systems, Inc., Genuity and Level 3 Communications for its VOIP platform.

VOIP is a promising technology that's been around for years, though many people don't know about it because of the low acceptance rate users and business owners have given the service in the past.

While it promises to deliver providers the holy grail of Internet services integrated voice and Internet services on the cheap IP telephony has been plagued with quality issues that have prevented its makers from cashing in on the product.

In addition to scratchy, hard-to-hear phone calls over the PC, VOIP software to date has been hard to integrate with the ISPs existing service, making it difficult to easily implement a VOIP program and get a quick return on investment (ROI).

Brad Garlinghouse, Dialpad chief executive officer, said quality of service is one of his company's goals and that its VOIP service meets that commitment.

"We share EarthLink's commitment of improving people-s lives by giving them the ability to communicate in new and better ways," Garlinghouse said. "We think this partnership will be very valuable for us and EarthLink, as well as EarthLink subscribers and visitors who will discover the convenience and value of EarthLink Internet Calling powered by Dialpad."

The world's top ISPs are rushing out to get their own piece of the VOIP pie, EarthLink's actions are merely the latest. Both America Online and the Microsoft Network targeted popular VOIP software company Net2Phone for buyout, which ultimately failed, though MSN and Rhythms NetConnections use the VOIP service as a value-add for its customers.

The five-minute length stricture placed by EarthLink and Dialpad is likely the trial-and-error result of a similar program launched earlier this year by the Microsoft Network and Net2Phone, another popular VOIP software company.

MSN had embedded its IP telephony service with its Instant Messaging (IM) service, a pogrom that quickly overran Net2Phone's bandwidth contract.

An EarthLink spokesperson said ISP will not offer real-time voice communications on its messaging platform, and that it's too premature to speculate when that would be implemented.