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BT is to offer free voicemail services for its retail customers from Monday as part of its bid to "add value" to its fixed line service.

The service - "BT Answer 1571" - is a watered-down version of BT's existing network-based Call Minder service and will be offered free of charge to all 20 million residential customers.

BT says the service is simple to use and can store up to ten voicemail messages at one time. Customers will be invited to contact BT to sign up to the service from Monday.

Some 2.4 million punters currently pay £24 a year for the Call Minder service generating more than £57 million (gross) a year for the telco.

Despite this, market research has shown that phone users aren't keen on paying a subscription for the service.

According to documents seen by The Register, as many as 80 per cent of BT's current Call Minder customer base is expected to move to the new free service - potentially slashing revenue for the telco.

However, BT believes many people will take BT Answer 1571 in addition to paying for Call Minder.

Ian Price, GM core business, consumer division, told El Reg that during a recent trial in Scotland only 10 per cent of Call Minder users ditched the service preferring BT Answer 1571 instead.

He also said this was a step towards BT offering a unified messaging service in the future.

The free voicemail offer is just of a range of measures BT Retail intends to introduce to improve its service.

Earlier this week BT Retail launched its new TV commercial as part of a new campaign to improve BT's image among consumers.

BT Retail boss, Pierre Danon, said BT needed to improve customer satisfaction levels. ®

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