Web & communication software

Vonage Bundles International Calls, Voicemail Texts

Vonage Holdings is adding unlimited free calls to countries including Mexico and China, plus speech-to-text conversion of voicemail, to its fixed-line VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service.

Starting Thursday, Vonage will let subscribers call more than 60 countries and territories as part of a flat-rate calling plan called Vonage World, priced at US$24.99 per month. The countries include India, Brazil, South Korea, Canada and Australia, as well as several countries in Europe and other locations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In more than a dozen of those countries, including India and China, calls to mobile phones are included.

Vonage World will also include the ability to have Vonage voicemail messages converted into text and sent to the recipient via e-mail or SMS (Short Message Service).

The new plan will replace the service provider's Premium Unlimited plan, which was also priced at $24.99. Vonage will still offer its $17.99 Basic 500 plan, with 500 minutes per month, and Vonage Pro, which includes a variety of special features. The company is exploring the possibility of adding the two new features to other plans.

Vonage said it is trying to help out its customers who live in communities that span borders. The service provider may need all the tools it can get to set itself apart from other types of services, including Skype's peer-to-peer VoIP technology and VoIP services from cable operators. Vonage, which went public in 2006 and was promptly sued by Verizon for alleged patent infringement, lost subscribers and reported falling revenue in this year's second quarter. However, it recorded its first profit in the quarter, a net income of $0.01 per share.

Vonage World covers calls to all areas of the included countries, the company said. With the Vonage Voicemail feature, users can listen to their voicemail messages over the air and also have them sent to a PC or cell phone as e-mail or SMS messages.

Dedicated fixed-line VoIP services have been squeezed by cable operators and some traditional carriers offering VoIP, as well as by more people turning to their mobile phones alone for voice calls. With the international calling feature introduced Wednesday, Vonage is again using its original promise of low-cost calling to attract subscribers, this time U.S. residents with strong ties to other countries.

Vonage reported on Aug. 5 that it lost 89,000 subscribers in the second quarter, ending the period with about 2.5 million lines in service. Its revenue also fell slightly, to $220 million from $228 million a year earlier. CEO Marc Lefar, a former Cingular Wireless executive who took over about a year ago, has aggressively cut the cost of Vonage's services and marketing.

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