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Wanadoo UK slips open silky VoIP kimono

'Fantastic technology', enthuses chief exec

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Wanadoo UK - which had some 700,000 high speed net users - has cut the ribbon on its new voice over broadband service.

For £4 a month, Wanadoo broadband punters can make free calls to UK landlines during evenings and weekends. The ISP, which is owned by France Telecom also maintains that the cost of other calls made using its "Wanadoo Wireless and Talk" service are cheaper than BT. Calls to other "Wanadoo Wireless and Talk" punters are free.

The new service uses Wanadoo's "Livebox" wireless box of tricks, which was unveiled last summer, to route calls over broadband. For now, Wanadoo's broadband telephony service is designed as a secondary phone line service but the ISP already has plans for the service to replace a household's primary phone line.

Wanadoo UK's chief exec, Eric Abensur, reckons the company is at the "cutting edge of this fantastic technology". He added: "As broadband becomes a standard feature in UK homes - like turning on a tap it will become second nature to use it for all types of services - such as plugging a phone or two into your home network or watching TV, and we look forward to making further exciting announcements over the coming months."

Wanadoo's voice service has already been launched in France although not without some problems. Just before Christmas almost 300 Wanadoo staff in France went on strike in protest at fielding calls from irate customers complaining that the service didn't work. Staff told bosses that the VoIP service - via Wanadoo's LiveBox system - was riddled with bugs and complained that they hadn't received enough training.

A spokeswoman for Wanadoo UK said that call centre staff in the UK had been fully trained to support the product. "We'd only launch a product that we have confidence in," she said.

In the US yesterday, AOL boss Jonathan Miller told a conference that the giant ISP plans to launch a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) product in the next month or so. Details about pricing and availability have yet to be announced. ®

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