The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) has purchased equipment that will allow it to offer international phone calls through the Internet at a rate 10 times lower than the cost of traditional phone calls, the daily La Nación reported.
The institute, which holds a monopoly on telecommunications in Costa Rica, purchased an IP international node for $3.3 million from U.S.-based Lucent Technologies. The system connects landline phones to the Internet, and has a capacity of 37,000 simultaneous calls. Calls can be made from a computer or phone.
ICE Assistant Telecommunications Manager Claudio Bermúdez told the daily that Internet phone calls will be available in flat-rate packages; clients will pay a periodic fee for unlimited calls. He added that ICE rates will be lower than those of Internet phone companies Skype (which offers calls from Costa Rica to Spain for $0.02 per minute, which now compares to $0.52 per minute from ICE) or Vonage.
Bermúdez said the equipment will be installed at the end of this year.
The institute is facing increased competition from Internet-based phone companies, since it is virtually impossible to prevent their operation in Costa Rica. Satellite phones, which cannot be sold by private companies in Costa Rica because of the monopoly but can be brought in and operated by customers who purchased them elsewhere (TT, Feb. 3), also pose a threat.