Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Microsoft, MCI to join computer-to-phone calling market

Microsoft teams up with MCI to extend the reach of MSN's instant-messaging service into the crowded global computer-to-phone call market.

The deal will allow consumers to place calls for as little as 2.3 cents a minute -- undercutting rates MCI offers existing customers -- and highlighting the challenge Web-based calling poses to voice-based telephone businesses.

Subscriptions initially will be available in five markets - starting with the United States and then extending to Britain, France, Germany and Spain in the next few weeks, said Blake Irving, vice president of MSN Communications Services.

Once a customer subscribes to the new service, customers will be able to place calls for 2.3 cents a minute to phones in any of the five countries. Prepaid calling time can be purchased from MCI in $5, $10 or $25 increments.

MCI and Microsoft said they are testing the Windows Live Messenger service among 10,000 users, which they expect to expand to include tens of millions of Microsoft instant messaging users within four months. The service will be made available to subscribers in countries worldwide within a year.

The two companies said the new service, to be known as MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, will be available through Windows Live Messenger -- Microsoft's recent name change for its MSN Messenger, which counts 185 million active users worldwide.


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