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AOL Canada to spread VoIP

Company to start offering Net phone service in greater Toronto, then throughout Canada in coming months.

AOL Canada plans to launch Internet phone service in greater Toronto over the next couple of weeks, marking the first AOL property to enter the growing VoIP market.

The company said Tuesday that it plans to offer AOL TotalTalk--a residential service that uses voice over Internet Protocol--to all high-speed Internet users, whether or not they are AOL subscribers.

AOL Canada, an alliance between America Online and RBC Royal Bank, marks the first AOL property to jump on the VoIP bandwagon.

"High-speed Internet access is a commodity in Canada. AOL is focusing on delivering services that leverage broadband to meet relevant consumer needs related to voice, data and video," Craig Wallace, AOL Canada's chief executive, said in a statement.

AOL Canada plans to offer the service for $16.10 (19.95 Canadian dollars) during a three-month introductory phase and then to increase it to $28.20 a month. Customers will receive free unlimited subscriber-to-subscriber calling and 60 minutes of North American talk time per month.

The service will include such features as locating the VoIP subscriber at up to three locations, voice mail that can be delivered in a traditional fashion or as an e-mail and the ability to use a TotalTalk phone number anywhere that the person can access a high-speed Internet connection.

Canada is projected to have 1.1 million VoIP users by 2007, according to a research report by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. Currently, 29,000 Canadians use VoIP.

VoIP is gaining momentum and creating a highly competitive landscape, which already attracted industry titans such as AT&T with its CallVantage and start-up services like Vonage and Net2Phone. Cable giants are also getting into the game.

In the United States, America Online has been in the testing phase for its VoIP since the summer, said Anne Bentley, an AOL spokeswoman. She declined to estimate when the service will debut in the United States.