launched a consumer version of its AIM Voice
Conferencing (AVC) system today, underscoring the company’s stated belief that instant
messaging is the new doorway to communication in the office and at home.
AOL’s 36 million active IM users can now access AVC, a “party line” from the the
company’s IM service, with Lightbridge
GroupTalk dial-out conferencing
The service, an extension of the business model rolled out in June, is a group-calling
program that allows up to 15 users to conference at once. AOL is offering 500 free minutes
for each new user during the holidays.
Kevin Thornton, vice president and general manager of Lightbridge, said the Consumer
AVC is “a natural extension” of the at-work conferencing service the two companies launched in June.
“Our on-demand, dial-out, group-calling model translates well into everyday life whenever
families, friends or social groups come together,” he said.
AVC calls travel over regular telephone lines, and there are no dial-ins or PINs
required to use the system.
Once activated, the service places a call directly to participants on either landlines or
mobile phones. It can also send invitations to personal computers, mobile phones or PDAs to chat through AIM.
Brian Curry, senior director of AIM Network Services, said the conferencing size of 15
provided a “large amount of headroom” primarily because the same mechanics from the business
version are being used for the consumer version.
Phone services are billed as “AVC minutes” and are counted on a “per-minute, per-user”
basis. An AVC minute is the total number of minutes spent on a call, multiplied by the number
of participants on the call.
The cost of a call is approximately $0.15 cents a minute per user. Time can be purchased
in advance at either $20, $50 or $100.
Users can access the service at AIM.com and on the Communications Tools addition to the
AIM 5.9 Buddy List feature. New users and users with version 5.6 or earlier can download
the updated version of the AIM software at the Web site.