Vonage Holdings, the US-based voice-over-internet protocol pioneer, will allow customers with its unlimited international calling plan to use their mobile phones to call friends and family abroad free.of charge.
The service – to be called Extensions – intensifies competition with Skype Technologies which has become the largest carrier of international voice traffic.
Customers who subscribe to the $26-a-month Vonage World service plan will be able to make limitless calls to fixed-line phones in more than 60 countries and to cell phones in 10 countries by their mobile phones and by dialling a special-access number.
Vonage is also developing apps for smartphones including Apple’s iPhone and Google Android-based devices that will simplify the process and allow people to dial from their contact list without entering the access number.
“This new service dramatically increases the value of Vonage’s core offering, providing customers with more flexibility and savings when making international calls,” said Marc Lefar, chief executive. It is also expected to improve customer loyalty at Vonage, a problem for the company which recorded a “churn” rate of 2.5 per cent in the latest quarter.
Vonage, which went public in 2006, added a net 3,345 subscriber lines in the quarter ended in March, making a total of 2.4m.
Mr Lefar said Extensions should help Vonage to compete more aggressively with Luxembourg-based Skype. The latter, being acquired by Microsoft, allows people to make free calls over the internet to other Skype customers and also offers low-cost calling to landlines and mobile phones worldwide.
After targeting home users for years, both companies now aggressively pursue users’ mobile devices. About 50 per cent of the international calls from the US are made by mobile phones, said Mike Tempora, senior vice president of product management at Vonage. “Most people use a calling card or pay high rates from a wireless carrier. So we felt this was a great opportunity to extend our service to these customers.”