VOIP services

Yahoo Launches VOIP Service

Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) has launched its paid PC-to-phone VOIP services -- called Phone Out and Phone In -- for users of its Messenger application, and is now playing catchup with Skype Ltd. , which launched its revenue-generating IP telephony services in July 2004. (See Skype Calls Out, But Is the Pope In? .)

An official launch announcement of the Yahoo services is expected later today, but they are already available at this site. Like the Skype services, users set up a pre-paid account and then run down their credit by making calls.

The services, which have been expected for a few months, follow Yahoo's purchase last year of VOIP firm Dialpad. (See Yahoo Jumps Into Voice and Yahoo Enters VOIP Fray).

And the per-minute rates for the Phone Out service (calls from your PC to fixed and mobile numbers) are, as you'd expect, rock bottom -- just 1 cent per minute to call any number in the U.S. (unless it's directory assistance, then it's 8 cents per minute), and the same rate for Canada and London (it's 1.5 cents per minute for other U.K. fixed lines, and 17 cents per minute for U.K. mobile/cell numbers).

The Phone In service, where the user gets a regular phone number, initially only covers certain phone code areas in the U.S., France, and the U.K., but anyone can use those numbers, no matter where they are based, as the number is tied to the Yahoo Messenger account and not a physical line. It costs from $29.90 per year for each numbered account.

A free VOIP service between users of Yahoo's instant messenger service has been available for a long time, but the pressure is on all the players in this Internet user land-grab sector to add more and more features and enable interoperability with existing communications systems and each others' platforms. (See Skype's Still Talking to Itself, Microsoft Buys a Second VOIP Firm, Google, SIPphone Hook Up, AOL/Google: VOIP Buddies , and MSN, Yahoo Link IM Services.)

Now the attention in the Internet and VOIP services sector will turn to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to see if it follows Yahoo with an extension to its free Google Talk service. (See Google Clicks to the PSTN?.)

But Google is tight-lipped. "We never comment on anything until it's launched," says a spokeswoman. So is a Google Talk paid-for VOIP service due to be launched, then? "I didn't say that, and we can't add anything to that," she retorts.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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