August 20, 2009

Vonage Launches Plan With Free International Calls

Vonage Holdings Corp. said on Wednesday that it would begin including free international calls to 60 countries as part of a new standard service plan that costs $25 per month.

The company's CEO, Marc Lefar, said the new Vonage World plan would replace the previous $25 per month service, which included unlimited calls to just six countries.  The new service also replaces various other plans that included expanded international calling, such as the $40 per month "Enhanced World" plan that provided unlimited calls to 58 countries.

Domestic long distance calling has been on the decline while international calls have been increasing year over year, Lefar said.  However, pricing hasn't kept pace.  

He expects to market the new plan to immigrants in the U.S., including Asians and Latin Americans.

At its peak, Vonage was signing up hundreds of thousands of subscribers per quarter, thanks it part to its offer of unlimited domestic calling for a flat monthly service fee.

But the company, the largest of the independent firms providing Internet phone service, saw its growth taper off amid patent lawsuits and competition from cable and phone companies who began offering their own unlimited-calling plans.

Vonage, now the eighth-largest landline phone company in the U.S., said it had about 2.5 million users at the end of June.

Under the new Vonage World plan, the company will still charge additional per-minute fees for calls to mobile phones in most countries.  However, the prices will be competitive with those offered by low-cost rivals such as Skype and Google Voice, Lefar said.

Existing Vonage subscribers who wish to sign up for the new service must directly request to be put on the new plan, Lefar said, but there is no charge for the switchover.

Lefar also said Vonage will begin transcribing subscriber voicemails into text and sending them via e-mail or text message for subscribers who choose that option, a service also provided by Google Voice.

"Our research tells us people aren't even listening to their voicemails anymore," Lefar said.

On the Net: