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Microsoft Dials Telefonica To Deliver Live Messenger VoIP Services In The U.S.

Miami -- Software behemoth Microsoft Corp. has chosen Telefonica, the largest telecommunications provider in Latin America, as an exclusive carrier to provide Voice over IP (VoIP) services to Windows Live Messenger customers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, the United States and Venezuela, the companies jointly said Friday.

Telefonica, which has the largest telecommunications network in Latin America, has branded the service “Voype” has been chosen from a flock of several operators to be Microsoft’s sole provider of Voice over IP (Voype) services in the region.

It will be available in Venezuela beginning Monday, Microsoft said.

Dubbed as Voype, Telefonica’s VoIP service works with Live Messenger and would allow Windows Live customers to make calls directly from their PCs to any landline or mobile phone in the world.

Clearly the objective is taking aim at eBay’s popular Skype Internet telephony technology, Microsoft’s Live Messenger VoIP solution may not be such a bad choice.

Calls to and from other Live Messenger users are free, calls made to phones in the United States, on either landline or cell phones, cost just US$.014 per minute. While rates are slightly higher in Canada and the United Kingdom--$0.055 and $0.023 per minute, respectively -- but the service’s rate list reveals relatively competitive pricing.

As a matter of fact, calls made in the States are cheaper on Voype than those made on Skype. Skype currently charges $0.021 for all calls sent to people in the United States.

Telefonica will utilize Microsoft’s online channels to promote this new service and expects to generate further revenues in the region by using a package strategy with its Speedy lines (ADSL).

With this first phase of the service, Windows Live customers will be able to make calls directly from their PCs (PSTN-Out) to any fixed or mobile phone in the world without leaving Windows Live. During the second phase, Windows Live users will also be able to receive calls on their PC (PSTN-In).

That said; Voype is still in its infant stages. It is currently available in select countries around the world but will soon be made available to customers in Latin America, which could increase its installed base.

More importantly, current Voype users would not be able to receive calls on their PC. According to Telefonica, that functionality is scheduled for release at a “later point,” as part of the “second phase.”

To sign up for the web calling/VoIP service and a list of other countries and call rates is available on the Voype service Web site.

Microsoft declined to say if and when the exclusive deal with Telefonica expires.