BT makes free calls offer
By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) - BT is sweetening its broadband packages by offering the first 50,000 new customers free calls for one year if they sign to any of its Internet deals by the year end.
In the latest gambit to boost key subscriber numbers for its high-speed Internet services, BT said on Tuesday customers would need to make calls from their computers using its latest BT Communicator product, from which they can access telephones.
BT, whose monthly broadband charges range from 17.99 to 29.99 pounds is also offering free calls between PCs to anywhere in the world. New broadband customers need a microphone and speakers on their computer, or a special headset.
BT Communicator allows users to make phone calls over Yahoo's instant messenger product using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which carries speech over the Internet.
Broadband services are a key pillar in BT's strategy to boost fixed-line revenues, which are under pressure from intense price competition. And VoIP services, which have only recently started offering acceptable call quality, are seen as the latest "must have" feature to keep Internet customers loyal.
The most radical VoIP new entrant is Luxembourg-based Skype Technologies, which earlier this year threw down the gauntlet to the industry by offering software that allows Internet users to make phone calls between two computers at no cost to users.
But BT's key rivals remain the likes of Tiscali, AOL and Wanadoo, whose rival broadband offerings have undercut BT's monthly subscription fees and helped shrink BT's share of the retail broadband market to about 40 percent.
BT said existing broadband clients, who download BT Communicator by January 14, 2005, would also get one month's worth of free UK calls and a free headset. However, non-geographically based numbers -- such as those beginning with 0870 or 0845 -- premium rate services, mobile and international calls are excluded.