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Skype Adds New Services for Internet Phoning

Skype Adds New Services for Internet Phoning

PARIS (Reuters) - Skype, the fast-growing Internet telephony company, launched on Friday a voice mail and phone access service in eight countries including the United States, stepping up competitive pressure on incumbent operators.

Skype, whose software allows people to make free phone calls over the Internet, said users could now get up to three phone numbers which will allow them to be reached by phone from any ordinary handset, fixed or mobile.

Previously Skype users could only be reached from a computer connected to the Internet.

"This makes Skype much more ubiquitous," Skype Chief Executive and co-founder Niklas Zennstrom told Reuters.

Skype, which launched its Internet software only 20 months ago and never advertised it once, counts 34 million registered users - a little more than the population of Canada.

The company's growth is driven largely by the global migration of consumers toward Internet-routed communications which cost significantly less than cable, satellite and radio telephony. Internet-based telephony was, until recently, mainly used by corporations.

Skype said its Internet telephony software passed the mark of 100 million downloads on Friday.

The company said its new voice mail and call-in service, called SkypeIn, would cost 10 euros ($13) for three months or 30 euros ($39) for 12 months. Voice mail only costs 5 euros ($7) for three months and 15 euros ($19) for a year.

"The new services represent an important new source of revenue for the company," Zennstrom said.

The Luxembourg-based business said its existing pre-pay service which enables users to make calls from their computer to ordinary phones at low prices around the world, already counted 1.2 million registered users.

The company, however, declined to say how much revenue the pre-pay service, called SkpeOut, had generated since it was launched in August 2004.

Zennstrom said he expected about half those subscribing to SkypeOut would want to get the new SkypeIn service.

Skype said subscribers to SkypeIn would be able to get a personal phone number in the United States, Hong Kong, Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland or Denmark.

However, in some countries such as France, an address will be needed to obtain a phone number.

"Anyone may call the user at their SkypeIn number wherever the user travels, providing huge cost savings compared to mobile roaming rates and flexibility for Skype users to receive calls at home, at the office, hotel or anywhere," the Luxemburg-based company said in a statement.

Skype said it was seeking to roll out its new SkypeIn service in other countries soon.

The company announced in February an agreement with Motorola to preload Skype software on Motorola handsets, boosting its access to the wireless market.

Zennstrom said he was expecting the first Skype pre-loaded handsets - designed by i-Mate, a small Dubai based company, to come to market as early as this month but he did not say in what countries.

Zennstrom co-founded Kazaa, the computer peer-to-peer file-sharing software that enabled millions to download music from the Internet for free and caused much pain to record companies.

Skype now threatens to do the same to incumbent telecom operators.