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Microsoft, Softbank in Japanese VoIP deal

The partnership will develop services combining Internet telephony, e-mail, Internet access and instant messaging.

Microsoft, Softbank BB and Japan Telecom announced a partnership Wednesday to develop communication services that combine Internet telephony, e-mail, Internet access, instant messaging and other services.

The companies said they plan to begin trials of the integrated services in the spring of 2006 and eventually offer them to business customers.

Some of these services are Microsoft's Solution for Enhanced VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) Services, Softbank BB's broadband VoIP services, and Japan Telecom's network infrastructure and management offerings, the companies said. Japan Telecom is a subsidiary of Softbank BB.

It's not the first deal Microsoft has struck to try to tap into the fast-growing VoIP market. In September, . And in December, Microsoft said its forthcoming Messenger Live instant messaging software would have VoIP abilities in conjunction with a nonexclusive deal with MCI.

Microsoft's Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services includes hosted versions of several Microsoft communication software packages, including Exchange Server 2003, Office Live Communications Server 2005 and Windows SharePoint Services.