Telecom venture Third Line Communications Co. said Monday it has launched a new fixed-line phone service that allows users to speak for free for about three minutes if they first listen to corporate ads for about 15 seconds.

The company said it can offer free calls by paying connection charges to the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. group operators and other common carriers with money raised from sponsoring companies.

This is the first time the free-call service has been offered for fixed-line telephone users, it said.

The service is available initially for users in Tokyo whose area code is 03. But it will be expanded to major cities in Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures by the end of March 2003, and to Hokkaido, Aichi, Osaka and Fukuoka prefectures in three years.

To receive the service, users must dial prefix 009193, followed by area code 03 and a telephone number. The users will then hear the ads before being connected to the desired number.

Third Line said 15 companies, including Aderans Co. and S.T. Chemical Co., have already become sponsors.

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