VoIP to vault into the mainstream

AOL plans a groundbreaking move to launch a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service as part of its AIM messaging offering.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  March 9, 2005

AOL plans to launch an internet phone product later this month, with the service rolled out first to AOL members limited locations in the USA at first, before being made available to the mass market. “Consumers just want something that is reliable and easy to use,” says AOL supremo Jonathan Miller. “Over 60% of consumers don’t know what VoIP is or don’t understand what it is, but it is possible they could be sold on it,” he adds. AOL says the VoIP service will be closely integrated with AOL’s popular e-mail and instant messaging service to create a communications dashboard. AOL hopes the system will become a central component in consumers' online communication. The AOL Internet Phone Service will use the buddy list facility to show a subscriber whether friends were currently available. Customers will be able to use their existing phones through an adapter that links them in to their broadband routers. Miller says IM sessions naturally turn into phone calls when one of the parties enters the phrase “Can I Call?” At that point, Miller says, the AOL product is designed to almost instantaneously switch the communications session to a VoIP call if the user on the other end is present. The product is similar on some levels to Microsoft’s newly announced Istanbul product and Nortel’s MCS product. The company plans to introduce tiered pricing for the service.

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