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Level 3 calls up toll-free VoIP

The company, which sells voice and data services to other carriers, launches a service that lets customers use VoIP for toll-free calling across the United States.

Level 3 Communications on Tuesday launched a new service that allows customers to use voice over Internet protocol for toll-free calling across the United States.

The new service, called (3)VoIP Toll Free, is designed for call-center operators, conferencing providers and voice portals. Level 3 sells voice and data services to other carriers, which then offer services to customers.

The way it works is that toll-free voice calls that originate on the public switched telephone network (PSTN) are then converted to IP using the company's softswitch technology. The traffic is transported over Level 3's multiprotocol label switched (MPLS) IP network.

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Raindance Communications, a conferencing service provider, is the first announced customer for the service. The company will offer the new VoIP service directly to its mainly business customers, beginning the first quarter of this year. Pricing was not announced.

Raindance also announced its new VoIP conferencing technology based on Level 3's network on Tuesday.

The new toll-free service rounds out Level 3's local and long distance products. In September, the company announced (3)VoIP Marketplace, a service that allows conferencing and call-center customers to establish local calls over a VoIP network.

The company said that both of these services complement the international voice solution announced Monday. The company is expanding its service to more carriers in Europe and Asia, and will provide VoIP services to cable and long-distance providers outside the United States.

Level 3, which first started offering VoIP services in 1999, has always touted the benefits of Net telephony. Using the technology, it claims that service-provider customers can quickly offer new services, reduce capital expenditures, streamline call flows, gain more control of their networks and reduce maintenance costs.

Level 3 has also been lobbying the federal government to keep VoIP service unregulated. Last week, it asked the Federal Communications Commission for an exemption from access charges on VoIP services.