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Vonage swaps local for long distance charges

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Vonage, the indie broadband telco, is turning itself into a Skype-alike by offering cheap-as-chips long distance and international calls to any Vonage number (or 800 number).

Callers don't have to have a Vonage line to call a Vonage number. They ring a local access number and then piggyback to the local Vonage number and so pay for the price of a local call. So the service, Vonage V-Access, is like a calling card, but without the calling card.

V-Access is available today in seven countries: the US, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Today's news from Vonage is not altogether surprising. It can only go cheaper: the company finds itself caught between Skype, which is queen of the PC-to-PC phone call scene and big carriers willing to drop their price pants to maintain market share.

Last week AT&T flexed its pumped-up monopoly-greased pecs by offering AT&T Unity, unlimited calling across its landline and Cingular cellco networks. That leaves 100m customers in the US with one less reason to buy a plan from an independent VoIP telco (so long as they are prepared to spend at least $59.99 a month plus add-ons, of course).

Vonage release here. ®

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