Netscape announced a wide ranging deal with US long distance phone company Qwest to jointly offer integrated services on the Netcenter portal.
As part of a three-year pact between the two companies, Qwest will provide Netcenter with a 622Mbps hook-up to its fibre network. Qwest and Netscape will jointly offer a range of services including Internet access, long distance telephony and a unified email/fax/voicemail inbox.
Qwest will provide customers of its Internet access service with a customised version of Netscape Communicator, and will become a reseller for Netscape software.
According to Netscape, the total deal is worth about $25 million. The joint services will be offered on a new section of Netcenter, called Netscape Contact.
The unified inbox will allow users to retrieve faxes, email and voicemail from their Netscape email inbox. Alternatively, they will be able to dial in and listen to their email messages read out by a text-to-speech system.
Netscape Contact will be integrated with the next major version of Netscape Communicator, the 5.0 release. For instance, users will be able to fax, email or page a person directly from their Communicator address book.
All Qwest customers will be able to sign up for long distance service via Netcenter, and will also be able to manage their Qwest accounts online. They will receive a co-branded calling card that also gives them access to Netscape Contact.
On Contact, users will be able to send an receive faxes, and set up conference calls. Users will be able to pay for every transaction, or take a subscription. No pricing for transactions or subscriptions has been determined.
Netscape said it would roll out the Contact services over a period of about six months, starting with a co-branded calling card and with the full unified inbox functionality coming last.
By teaming up with Qwest, Netscape is reacting to a number of separate deals made by its portal competitor, Yahoo. Earlier this year, Yahoo signed separate deals with JFax and AT&T to cover some of the same territory. Netscape signed with JFax to provide unified messaging in June.
It is not yet clear whether the Netscape Contact offering will also be made available to European customers.
New Web statistics published by Media Metrix on Thursday show Netcenter losing some ground against its competitors in the portal market. According to the data, netscape.com is now the number five Web property, with 32.3 per cent of US Web users visiting the site at least once during August.
Netscape trails AOL, Yahoo and the combined Microsoft sites, all of which score in the high forties, and Lycos, which attracted 37.5 per cent.
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