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AOL Gets Into The VoIP Business with AIM Phoneline

America Online is getting into the VoIP business, with its new AIM Phoneline, which will give AIM users a free local telephone line at which they can receive incoming landline and cell phone calls when they are online.

The company is also releasing a for-pay version, AIM Phoneline Unlimited, which will cost $14.95 a month and include unlimited outgoing calling to local and long-distance numbers and 30 foreign countries.

The service is expected to be launched in the 50 largest U.S. markets in May.

AIM Phoneline is clearly targeted at Skype users, or users who would consider using Skype. While Skype is popular worldwide, and claims to have 100 million users, it has not proved particularly popular in the U.S., most likely because U.S. calling rates are relatively low, and callers in the U.S. do not tend to make many international calls. Skype's savings are greatest for international calls.

AIM Phoneline includes all the usual PC-based VoIP features, including free calling to other AIM Phoneline user. But AOL is hoping to differentiate the service by adding the free phone number. That allows anyone on a landline or cell phone to dial a number and reach the person online.

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