America Online is expected to launch an Internet-phone service in the United States next month, leapfrogging rivals in a fast-growing market as it seeks to evolve from an also-ran provider of dial-up Internet access to a broadband services powerhouse.
Like Yahoo and Microsoft, AOL already offers voice chat on PCs as a free feature of its instant messaging services. AOL's new phone service, by contrast, will take a different path, charging customers a monthly fee to make calls over the Internet using an ordinary handset and a small analog-to-digital telephone adapter.
AOL has been testing a U.S.-based phone service with volunteers since last summer, and it launched a similar service in Canada in December. The online giant plans to introduce its VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, product to U.S. subscribers in mid-March and then offer it to nonmembers later this year, according to sources familiar with the plan.
News source: C|Net News.com