America Online (AOL) confirmed Wednesday that it is testing a variety of pricing packages to give subscribers cheaper, or even free telephone calls when accessing the service.
According to sources AOL, a joint venture between America Online and Germany's Bertelsmann AG, are currently putting together a large test-bed to trial Internet subscription packages, including using a toll-free 0800 number.
AOL confirmed it had a strategy announcement to make next week, but declined to comment on specific pricing packages.
"As part of the normal course of business, AOL UK is continually testing various options and pricing points, including 0800-Services, to ensure we are meeting the needs of our members. However, at this time we have no announcements," said a statement issued by AOL.
The boom in free access Internet service providers in the UK, triggered by Dixons' phenomenally successful Freeserve has undoubtedly dented AOL's paid subscription base, according to analysts. AOL has around 600,000 UK members, while Freeserve has already passed the one million mark.
Only last week Tempo announced an Internet access service with free off-peak phone calls.
The Sun and Mirror newspapers have also announced free Internet access services and on Wednesday BSkyB confirmed it is to enter the foray with a service going live in June.
AOL has been adament that it does not want to scrap its subscription model and support the campaign for umetered calls. Its rivals, however, maintain they can make money out of a share of call charges and from online advertising and ecommerce capabilities.
Analysts believe that AOL is unlikely to go back on its word and will spend some time testing out monthly subscription costs via an 0800 telephone number.
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