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BT disses Dixons' 'Freetalk'

Plans to plug own VoIP services

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Dixons has yet to confirm details of its anticipated VoIP offering, Freetalk, but the service is already causing a stir.

The electrical retailer set up Freeserve - now called Wanadoo and owned by France Telecom - in 1997. Almost overnight it became a massive success, attracting a million users in just a few months. The combination of a pay-as-you-go subscription-free service and blanket distribution via Dixons stores helped the mass-market take-up of the Internet in the UK.

Eight years on and now Freetalk - which is expected to cost from £6.99 a month and is due to be unveiled this week - is being hyped as the 'Son of Freeserv'.

Then again...

"We don't think this is going to be 'Freeserve 2' or 'Son of Freeserve'," said a BT spokesman. "Dixons are not first movers on this, they're late to market and this product is not revolutionary."

And this from the UK's incumbent telco, which launch two VoIP services in late 2003. Even though it was relatively quick to hop on the VoIP bandwagon, BT's PC-based Communicator service only has 50,000 users while Broadband Voice, which resembles Freetalk, has yet to be plugged with any real conviction.

That, though, looks set to change. BT is to run a three-month promo for its BT Communicator service from next month, which it says will undercut tariffs offered by other broadband telephony outfits, such as Skype. The telco also looks set to start making some noise about Broadband Voice too by spending some cash to promote the service. ®

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