Competitive pressure from mobile operators will force UK and European telcos to introduce unmetered calls within three years, a senior executive from America Online has predicted.
AOL vice president of corporate development for Europe, Chris Hill, told the BancBoston Robertson Stephens international technology and telecommunications conference in London today that rapidly falling mobile phone tariffs would put pressure on British Telecom to introduce flat rate calls.
Some analysts believe the UK's metered calls system has discouraged the growth of the 'e-economy' in this country.
In countries such as the US and Australia, where local telephone calls are flat rate or free, the Internet has achieved a higher rate of penetration in the consumer market.
The more widespread introduction of services, such as BT's unmetered access to its own Internet service on weekends, would pave the way for flat rate voice and Internet calls across the market, Hill said.
Hill was confident of AOL's ability to retain its charging model, despite the free ISP phenomenon that has seen dozens of companies follow Dixons' lead and launch free access services in recent months.
"Our experience in the US has shown that there is room for charging ISPs," he said.
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