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New Net phone service off to bumpy start

It's been a rough beginning for Skype, a free voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service recently launched by a team that includes co-creators of Kazaa.

It's been a rough start for Skype, a free voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service recently launched by a team that includes co-creators of Kazaa.

Skype's free software for making phone calls using a broadband connection became available on its Web site Friday. There have been "some service disruptions today due to unanticipated network growth during beta," Skype warned on Tuesday in a message. The message said the company hopes to have the problems fixed in 24 hours.

Skype representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Skype is a new service for making unlimited free phone calls using VoIP, which places calls using the Internet rather than the privately owned telephone networks. It joins a cluster of relatively new companies such as Free World Dial-Up (FWD), a free VoIP service that recently said it has signed up more than 50,000 users, and major Instant Message companies that now let users make VoIP calls.

On its Web site, Skype claims that unlike rivals, its software works with most security-enhancing firewalls and network address translation setups. Skype also sells headsets and a telephone handset to plug into personal computers for between $13 and $28.

FWD spokesman Daniel Berninger said that Skype can only be used through a computer, while FWD and others transform a household phone into a VoIP dialer. But Berninger said Skype does have one thing most of the young VoIP industry doesn't: star power.

Former Kazaa heavyweights that have signed onto Skype include Chief Executive Niklas Zennstrom, co-creator of the Kazaa software, and Ahti Heinla, Skype's chief architect and one of Kazaa?s major architects. Kazaa is enormously popular peer-to-peer file-sharing software.

"If they can leverage the e-mail database of the millions that downloaded Kazaa, that would be super for them," Berninger said.

Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com and Lindows, has also recently launched a VoIP service called SIPphone. SIP stands for "Session Initiation Protocol," a technology that lies at the heart of the fast-growing Internet voice business.