Sunday, June 29, 2003

From Rich Shockey:
TOKYO, Nov 15 (AFP) - Four major Japanese firms, including KDDI Corp. and NEC Corp., said Friday they would link up to join the race to provide cheap phone calls over the Internet.
"We hope this will be a factor in getting more customers," said Fumiyoshi Kitayama, a spokesman for technology titan NEC.
The free service will start in April and be offered to new users and to
group's current 1.2 million broadband Internet subscribers, a statement said.
The group, which also includes electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. and Japan Telecom Co. Ltd., hopes its service will help draw its combined 10 million subscriber-base onto the firms' respective broadband services, Kitayama said.
"That is our final goal," he said.
While the attachment needed to link a person's computer to their
will be free during the trial period starting in December, the group is to decide on a rental fee before its launch in April.
Users must also pay their normal Internet subscription fees, around 3,200 yen (27 dollars) a month, and pay regular phone charges if calling a normal land line. Phone calls between Web-based phone users will be free.
The move follows a similar announcement by Sony Communication Network Corp., Nifty Corp. and NTT Communications Corp. on Thursday to jump on the cheap Web-based call bandwagon, with an eye to starting the service by March.
The latter group had some 1.34 million broadband customers that could use the service with the help of an attachment, and 10.8 million Internet subscribers in total.
The latest announcements show the interest in Web-based calls, which were first introduced to Japan by Yahoo Japan Corp. in January of this year.
Since its BB phone service began, some 770,000 customers have signed up.
Yahoo Japan spokesman Masanori Satake said the Web phone service was
key to
boosting the number of subscribers to its Yahoo BB broadband service to 1.21 million since it began last September.
"Our BB phone service has been a major tractor pulling our subscription base upward," Satake said. "It was the big difference between us and our competitors."


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