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   09/08/97- Updated 09:34 AM ET
  PCs no longer needed to place Net calls
   Consumers can now make super-cheap, long-distance phone calls over the
   Internet without even touching a computer - creating a dangerous rival
   for long-distance companies.
   Monday, IDT unveils Net2Phone Direct, a service that lets a consumer
   pick up a phone, dial a number and send the call through the Internet
   to another phone anywhere in the world. The cost: 8 cents a minute
   within the USA; 18 cents to London; 29 cents to Japan - all cheaper
   than traditional long-distance calling.
   Net2Phone Direct is the broadest service yet. Versions are being tried
   by others, including units or partners of Deutsche Telekom and Japan's
   KDD. Says David Goodtree of Forrester Research, "Phone to phone is
   where the money is."
   "It's the natural evolution of voice over the Internet," says Yankee
   Group's Brian Adamik. Several software packages already let a PC user
   have a voice conversation with another PC user via the Internet.
   Vocaltec, the leading Internet phone company, offers a service that
   connects a PC user to regular phones. But phone-to-phone can reach the
   broadest number of consumers.
   Net2Phone Direct works like a long-distance, dial-around service. A
   user dials an 800 number or a local access number, punches in an
   account number, much like using a phone card, then dials the number to
   be called.
   IDT's system sends the call over the Internet to a computer in
   Hackensack, N.J., which dumps the call back into the regular phone
   network, through which the call connects to another phone. IDT plans
   to expand the system by placing its computers in more cities, so the
   calls travel more over the Net (which is free) and less distance over
   traditional phone lines (which cost money). Eventually, prices could
   fall "to under a nickel a minute to anyplace in the country," says CEO
   Howard Jonas.
   Until recently, major phone companies had all but ignored developments
   in Internet telephony. But that's changing. Big phone companies "are
   keeping a careful eye on it," Adamik says.
   Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced an investment in Vocaltec. Over
   the summer, AT&T and Vocaltec allied to fund an Internet telephony
   start-up run by former AT&T executive Tom Evslin.
   By Kevin Maney, USA TODAY
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   ęCOPYRIGHT 1997 [34]USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. 


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