Well, it's finally here. Free phone service in the US, North American long distance included. All you have to do is pair Skype's North America free outbound service
, announced today with AOL's free inbound service with a PSTN phone number
, announced last week. Both Skype and AOL are battling for turf in the hotly contested VoIP game - and both will lose money by offering these services, which have real costs associated with them. Skype, for its part, is not as widely adopted in the USA as the rest of the world, and so figures this investment will help them reach critical mass. AOL figures it has the existing revenue to fund a loss-leader with which it will upsell with AOL Phoneline Unlimited, which will let users make outgoing local and LD calls for a flat $14.95 a month fee. Perhaps AOL can afford to issue free phone numbers to customers' PCs because they have all those modem bank phone numbers that fewer and fewer people are dialing up each day.
Either way, Free Phone Service using a combination of the two will require you to register to both, log on to both software clients with a PC (not included), and to have a good, non-DSL
, Internet connection. Doh! There goes the "free" part.