Telecom Finland to offer Net phone service

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HELSINKI - Telecom Finland, the Finnish state telecom company, is hoping to launch voice-over-the-Internet and intranet services to customers in Finland within two years. It is thought to be the first time that the dominant telephone company within a country has ever offered a phone-over-the-Internet service that could compete with its main business. An Internet phone service would be significantly less expensive for users, particularly on international telephone calls.

The company has established a special project division,TF-MediaNet Phone, to lead the venture. "We are already at a stage where we can provide voice-over-the-Internet services across the country," says Mika Uusitalo, head of the new unit.

"Up to now the voice-over-the-Internet service has mainly been used by private individuals and for fun," says Uusitalo. "We are working on making it more commercial."

Telecom Finland's target is to encourage business users to build new value-added applications based on Internet telephone services. "Our voice-over-the-Internet service will include a World Wide Web integrated user location service, Internet telephone and online user directories, along with voice-mail services, and accounting systems," says Uusitalo.

In addition, Telecom Finland claims that its service will include collaborative applications for users. The company is also working on developing a gateway between Internet telephone and traditional telephone networks, although this is still at the development stage.

The technology being used by TF-MediaNet has been developed as part of a joint venture effort between Telecom Finland and Israel's VocalTec. The service concept and Web integration was developed by TF's Medialab, with client software based on VocalTec's Internet phone technology.

Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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