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Fusion Communications Corp. on Sunday launched its Internet-based domestic long-distance telephone service that charges users a uniform rate of 20 yen per three minutes for calls made to anywhere in Japan.

Fusion Communications is a new common carrier established in March 2000 and owned in part by Furukawa Electric Co. and trading company Nissho Iwai Corp. It is the first phone operator in Japan to offer a uniform long-distance rate irrespective of the distance and the time or day of a call.

“We will try hard to offer customer-oriented service,” Fusion Communications President Tadahisa Sumida said at a ceremony to celebrate the launch at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo.

To commemorate the launch, Sumida used the new service to call the firm’s office in Osaka and applause from employees ensued when the call, with tone quality similar to calls provided by other carriers, went through.

Currently, long-distance rates charged by NTT Communications Corp. and other fixed-line phone operators for a three-minute weekday daytime call range from 20 yen to 80 yen depending on distances.

Fusion’s new service is expected to intensify competition among telecom operators before the introduction of the industry-wide “Myline” service in May, which allows users to connect to their preferred carrier without dialing a suffix number.

Fusion is able to offer the uniform telephone rate by using a transmission method that converts the caller’s voice into data. As of last Thursday, applications for the service topped 150,000 lines, 1.5 times the operator’s initial target, while the carrier had received 700,000 inquiries about the service.

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