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Free Vonage Calls To Europe Stirs Up Competition

Vonage America is waiving its international calling rates to France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the U.K. in a move that will bring it into closer competition with Skype for many customers.

Announced Tuesday, Vonage said the free calling is available to subscribers with its $24.99 monthly Premium Unlimited Plan and its $49.99 Small Business Unlimited Plan. While the comparison with Skype has overtones of comparing apples and oranges, some callers will now find it more attractive to use Vonage than Skype.

Skype's business model has typically been focused more on international calling from country to country while Vonage has been targeted primarily at calling in the U.S. Skype calls to other Skype users are free. However, SkypeOut calls from Skype users to non-Skype users incur charges of about 2.5 cents a minute and those charges could add up for heavy users to the point where it will be cheaper for them to use Vonage.

Vonage also offers a bunch of free features including voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, call transfer, repeat dialing and sophisticated Web-based account management. Skype charges for some of those features.

"Continuing to recognize the requirement Vonage's customers have to make their communications needs less expensive, starting today you can now call your family, friends and business associates residing in Paris, Rome, Dublin, Madrid or London at no additional cost," said Michael Tribolet, president of Vonage America, in a statement.

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