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Verizon offers lower-cost Net phone service

For $19.95 per month, the plan offers 500 minutes of outbound local and domestic long-distance calls.

Verizon Communications has unveiled a new Net phone plan designed to lure price-conscious customers.

Dubbed Verizon VoiceWing 500, the plan offers 500 minutes of outbound local and domestic long-distance calls per month, along with unlimited inbound calls and free calls to other VoiceWing subscribers. The service, unveiled Wednesday, costs $19.95 a month.

That's cheaper than the company's higher-end VoiceWing Unlimited plan, which costs $34.95 per month for unlimited calls. (Subscribers to Verizon's DSL service can get it for $24.95 for the first 12 months). Incoming calls are also free with these older plans.

Verizon's move is seen as an attempt to stay afloat in the intensely competitive market for services based on VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol.

Rival AT&T recently reported that its much-publicized VoIP plan, AT&T CallVantage, pulled in only 53,000 subscribers in 2004.

VoiceWing gives subscribers the option of listing their number on a 411 residential directory assistance database. It supports faxing as well; any VoiceWing subscriber who uses a Linksys PAP2 telephone adapter can use the fax service at no extra cost. The service also lets a customer block 20 predetermined phone numbers.

Additionally, subscribers can purchase up to five additional telephone numbers to use for incoming calls--and customers can have their pick of area codes.

"For example, if you have an out-of-town friend or relative who calls you frequently, you can purchase an additional incoming number with their area code. Then every call they make to you will be a local call for them," Michelle Swittenberg, executive director for Verizon's consumer VoIP services, said in a statement.