By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Vonage introduced a new voice service aimed at small businesses and advanced consumers last week.
The company also moved to shore up its finances and announced that it had secured its first patent for VoIP technology.
The new Vonage Pro calling plan uses new Vonage Companion softphone software to enable users to place calls from an Internet-connected laptop using their home Vonage number. Incoming calls will ring both the home Vonage line and the Companion softphone simultaneously.
The service supports selective call block, conference calling, personal ringtones and call recording.
The Pro service will include unlimited domestic calling and 25 directory-assistance (411) calls per month. Vonage Pro will also include 25 visual voice mails per month, a service that will automatically transcribe a voicemail message into a text email or SMS message. The companion will automatically sync with Vonage's contact center address book.
Vonage will charge $34.99/month for new Pro customers, who can choose from one of three access devices — the V Phone, Vonage's V-Portal adapter or Motorola's VT2142RB router.
Existing subscribers to the company's Premium Unlimited Plan can add Pro for an extra $10/month.
Earlier in the month, Vonage said that it secured financing that it would use against its existing convertible notes, which could be put to the company this December.
Vonage's financial lifeline comes courtesy of Silver Point Finance. According to Vonage, Silver Point established terms and conditions for up to $215 million in private debt financing for the VoIP firm, of which Silver Point would kick in $125. To secure the financing, Vonage will have to find other lenders willing to pony up $60 million, among other conditions.
Should Vonage clear the hurdle it will use the net proceeds and its cash-on-hand to repurchase the convertible notes that are currently hanging over its head to the tune of $253 million.
With its finances seemingly stabilizing, Vonage also moved to shore up its intellectual property portfolio with the announcement that it had secured its first VoIP patent. Vonage had been on the receiving end of several costly patent infringement suits from Verizon and Sprint, among others.
Called "Method and Apparatus for Placing a Long Distance Call Based on a Virtual Phone Number," the technology lets consumers use a virtual number to make long-distance calls without incurring long-distance charges, the company said.
Many companies, including Vonage, offer virtual numbers. Different than a second line, a virtual number will ring the main VoIP line but gives consumers another number for use (typically in the same area code as a friend or family member to help them defray long-distance charges).
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