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AOL Enters VoIP Market

Dulles, Va. — The VoIP market saw the entrance of another powerful brand when AOL announced the launch of its Internet phone service today.

The offering, made possible through partnerships with Level 3 Communications and Sonus Networks, will initially be rolled out to 40 markets, including Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Orlando, Fla.; and New York. According to AOL, additional cities will be added “in the coming months.”

The service requires a broadband connection and a subscription to AOL’s Internet service. The company is offering routers and adapters from both Linksys and Netgear. Users sign up for the service online and receive a welcome kit with instructions and either a terminal adapter or VoIP-enabled broadband router.

Non-AOL members will be offered an introductory rate for the phone service and AOL’s broadband Internet service for $29.99 per month for the first six months and $39.99 thereafter. The offer includes unlimited local and long-distance calling within the United States and Canada.

For current AOL members, the company is offering three calling plans each with three-month introductory pricing for a $5 monthly savings. The entry local plan offers unlimited local calls and 4-cent long-distance calls for $18.99 per month. An unlimited calling plan will offer unlimited local and long-distance calling within the United States and Canada for $29.99 per month. Finally, a global calling plan for $34.99 per month features unlimited local and long-distance calls within the United States and Canada and “low international rates,” AOL said.

The plan features E-911 service in all the rollout markets.

Existing AOL members who sign up for the VoIP service will receive a free wireless router.

The company plans to integrate its other Internet services, such as e-mail and instant messaging, with its IP telephony service in addition to standard calling features such as call waiting, caller ID and voicemail. It will also feature quick codes for basic call forwarding, sending calls to voicemail and canceling call waiting.

AOL will offer a central “dashboard” Web page where users can manage their account settings, call handling and call-forwarding preferences, view call logs of incoming and outgoing calls, and access contact lists with click-to-dial functionality. Users can access voicemail messages via e-mail.