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The Softbank group on April 25 will begin an Internet-based telephone service offering three-minute calls to the United States for 7.5 yen.

BB Phone will also enable subscribers to talk to nonsubscribers within Japan for 7.5 yen for three minutes, said the group, which includes Softbank Corp., Yahoo! Japan Corp. and BB Technologies.

BB Phone will also enable subscribers to speak to each other free of charge, the group said.

Initially, the group planned to only allow subscribers to its asymmetrical digital subscriber line service, Yahoo! BB, to join the cheap service, but later decided to allow users to take advantage of the BB Phone service even if they are not subscribers, it said.

Yahoo! BB is a high-speed Web connection service based on conventional telephone lines.

Industry analysts said the move is likely to reverberate throughout Japan’s telecom industry.

Subscribing to the BB Phone only requires the installation of a modem between a household telephone and a phone jack in each household. The group will charge 690 yen a month to rent the modems.

The device would also enable subscribers to use the ADSL service if they pay a separate fee.

If consumers prefer to only use the BB Phone, they will be charged 390 yen as basic a monthly fee, which will be separate from the fees levied in proportion to the length of time spent on the phone. Subscribers to the Yahoo! BB ADSL service will be spared the basic fee.

Current Yahoo! BB subscribers only need to apply for terminal adapters designed to add the BB Phone function to their existing ADSL modems.

Some 300,000 new subscribers to the BB Phone or Yahoo! BB services will not have to pay the initial startup fee of 3,600 yen, but the group will require subscribers to other telecom carriers’ ADSL services to stop subscribing or defect to the group’s own ADSL service if they apply for BB Phone.

The group’s strategy calls for increasing the number of subscribers to the Yahoo! BB ADSL service by offering them access to the cheap BB Phone, group sources said.

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