REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 28, 1999 — You’re at home and on the Internet. If you’re using your only telephone line for your online connection, your friends and family can’t get through to you by phone. Voicemail can alert you to your messages when you finally log off, but there’s no way to know about important calls you don’t want to miss until it’s too late. Call Waiting is one answer, but it will probably break your connection when it kicks in. Getting a second phone line for the computer could cost you hundreds of dollars per year.
For subscribers to MSN Internet Access, the scenario could be significantly better. If they’re on the computer when a call comes in to their only phone line, they’ll know it without being kicked off their Internet connection, thanks to a pop-up message on their computer screen that shows the name and number of the person calling. And they’ll get a multitude of options: they can take the call through either their phone or their computer; or they can click on an icon that forwards the call to another number or delivers an automated call-back message. With a click of the mouse, they’ll manage the phone call without breaking their Internet connection.
What makes this possible is a new agreement between Microsoft Corp. and Nortel Networks, announced today, that brings Internet Call Waiting (ICW) services to MSN Internet Access subscribers. MSN ICW allows consumers to take advantage of traditional Call Waiting and Caller ID via the Internet, so they can identify who’s calling while online and manage the call without losing their Internet connections. The new service is available today in Atlanta, Seattle and San Diego, with rollout scheduled in 50 major U.S. metro areas over the next few months.
“The ability to be connected to the Internet and manage incoming calls is something consumers have been waiting for,”
said Yusuf Mehdi, director of marketing for the Consumer and Commerce Group at Microsoft.
“MSN Internet Access is the first national ISP to offer this service from Nortel Networks — another example of our bringing the best of the Web to MSN first.”
Subscribers with MSN ICW won’t miss important calls when they’re on the Internet, but that’s only part of the benefit, according to Mehdi. Subscribers will also gain more control over their time and their phones, since they can decide whether to take the incoming calls on their phone or computer, forward them, or respond with a pre-recorded message. People who thought they needed a second phone line can avoid that expense, and people now spending $20 or more dollars per month for such a line can discontinue it, he said.
“Customers now have complete control and that’s a unique advantage of the MSN ICW service,”
said Christopher Fedorko, Nortel Networks’ director of business development.
“Other ICW services may just provide notification of incoming calls or permit the user to respond by phone or computer, but not the option to choose either.”
Mehdi and Fedorko also emphasized that Microsoft and Nortel Networks are making sure that the entire experience is delivered end-to-end via the Web, to give consumers the easiest possible experience. Customers can learn about the service, order it, arrange all the details, and even sign up for required local phone company services, with the convenience they expect from the Web.
According to independent market research from International Data Corp. (IDC), many people are likely to take advantage of this type of offering. IDC forecasts that 21.6 million households will subscribe to ICW services by 2003, with more than 26 percent of online households signing up by the end of next year.
For its part, Nortel Networks also sees strong advantage in the Nortel Networks-Microsoft agreement.
“Microsoft has a commitment to the Internet and telecommunications marketplace, a reputation for bringing advanced solutions to customers and terrific brand awareness,”
“Couple that with Nortel Networks’ unique ability to bring together the worlds of voice and data and you have a great offering for consumers and small businesses.”
The MSN ICW service is part of MSN’s vision of the
in which the Web becomes an indispensable part of daily life for consumers and businesses, with far-reaching implications for the way people live and work. MSN ICW supports this vision by making the Web easier, less expensive and more convenient for both home- and small-business users.
The MSN ICW service is available to new and existing MSN Internet Access subscribers in Atlanta, Seattle and San Diego. There is no activation fee and customers can sign up for the service at http://www.extremevoice.com/msn. The current monthly fee ranges from $4.95 to $5.95 depending on location. The service requires Call Forward Busy, which can be activated by local telephone companies for a small extra monthly charge. Consumers have the option to sign up for Call Forward Busy as part of the online registration for MSN ICW.
Customers also need a PC with at least a 486 CPU, 16MB RAM and a modem, running Windows 95 or higher. Customers who’d like to take calls on their computer while connected to the Internet need a PC with at least a Pentium 90 processor, 16MB RAM for Windows 95/98 and 24MB RAM for Windows NT, and a 28.8kbps modem. They also need the VolP client software Microsoft NetMeeting TM , available from the Microsoft Web site, speakers and a microphone or a headset, and a compatible sound card.
* Nortel Networks, the Nortel Networks Globemark, and Unified Networks are trademarks of Nortel Networks.