The small device, basically an add-on to a cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) modem, includes a phone jack that allows people to plug in a regular phone to make Net-based phone calls. The device, to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, also allows consumers to link their computers throughout the home, so they can communicate and share the high-speed Net connection.
To make a call, Net2Phone subscribers previously had to dial a number over the company's software on a PC and speak through a PC microphone. With Linksys' new device, customers can simply dial directly on their phone as long as the phone is connected to the cable or DSL modem, representatives from the companies said.
Net2Phone is an Internet phone company that offers cheaper phone rates than traditional phone companies. While domestic phone calls through PCs are free, Net2Phone charges about 3.9 cents per minute to consumers who make domestic calls using regular phones. International rates start at 7.9 cents. All calls are routed through Net2Phone's private Internet-based network.
Linksys, based in Irvine, Calif., competes against 3Com, Intel, Proxim, Netgear, a Nortel Networks spinoff, and others in the emerging market for home networking, technology that gives PCs and other electronic devices the ability to connect and communicate.
Linksys' new device, available in late January or early February, can link up to four computers in a home and includes security software, a Linksys representative said. People can connect their PCs by using networking technology called Ethernet, which requires people to string cables between their computers.
For Net2Phone, the partnership with Linksys makes it easier for consumers to use its phone service. Net2Phone previously teamed with 3Com, which made dial-up modems that allowed consumers to make calls using Net2Phone's service. 3Com recently spun off its modem business, which as been renamed U.S. Robotics.