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AOL tees up toll-free call service

Comes clean about 0800 trial

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AOL UK has finally buckled under the pressure of the UK ISP market and has admitted that it is testing a new pricing package which would give users toll-free telephone calls to access the Net. AOL refused to confirm any details but a Reuters' story published earlier today said it had been conducting trials of 0800 freephone numbers in the UK with a number of different pricing policies. AOL is currently assessing the findings of the trials and it's expected that more information will be released next week. In February Andreas Schmidt, president and CEO of AOL Europe said high telephone call charges were smothering the development of an Internet-based economy in Europe and he called for a radical overhaul of the telecomm pricing structures in Europe. Until now, AOL has resisted all calls to cut its subscription fees and has come under heavy fire from many industry watchers and customers for maintaining its subscription-based service. AOL's decision to trial the use of toll-free Internet access shows just how much pressure the service provider is under in the UK. Only last week electrical retailer Tempo and wholesale telecomms reseller, LocalTel announced that their new subscription-free service would also include toll-free calls during off-peak times. Back then The Register said that war was about to break out in the UK ISP market although that was believed to be between Dixons and Tempo. If AOL's trials have any substance to them, then a separate front could open up. Looks like it's time to dust off that tin hat and duck for cover. ®

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