Vonage and AT&T CallVantage may have entered a VoIP price war last week by chopping $5 off their monthly fees, but EarthLink Inc. is raising the bar with a price that could be tough to beat: free.
Tuesday, the ISP launched EarthLink Free Online Calling, a SIP-based service offered for no extra charge to the company's broadband subscribers. However, the service limits calls to other SIP users.
EarthLink is making the free offering available to all of its 1.2 million high-speed subs, and is partnering with SIPphone and Free World Dialup to exchange calls. Xten Networks, meanwhile, is providing EarthLink with its "X-Lite" softphone application.
EarthLink customers will still have to shell out money for their own computer headset (for PC use) or an Analog Telephone Adapter to access the service. Unlike PacketCable-based VoIP services that tap the cable operator's managed network and utilize QoS, EarthLink's service, like Vonage and CallVantage, use the public Internet.
The "free" product marks the ISP's latest move into VoIP. Last year, EarthLink launched Unlimited Voice, a more comprehensive service offered in conjunction with Vonage that gives users the ability to call wireless and traditional circuit-switched telephones. An EarthLink spokesman said the ISP continues to market the Vonage service.