Freeserve logs on to talking e-mail

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The Independent Online
VOCALIS GROUP, a developer of automated telephone technology products, signed an agreement with Freeserve yesterday that will enable users of the Internet service provider (ISP) to access e-mail as voice files over the telephone.

Freeserve, which floated on the stock market last month, will provide Vocalis' SpeechMail service free to its customers - who number more than 1 million. It will allow them to check their e-mail from fixed-line and mobile phones using voice commands.

Audio e-mails can also be sent to other Freeserve subscribers, and will be played through the speakers of a user's PC.

Freeserve and Vocalis willsplit the phone call revenue. The deal coincides with trials by MCIWorldCom and others of Vocalis' SpeecHTML product that allows customers to access the Internet via the telephone.

Vocalis, which recently raised pounds 8.7m through a rights issue, has sought to develop strong sales of new Net related products to help it become profitable after registering a pounds 1.1m loss in the year to March. Its shares jumped 13.5p to 110p yesterday.

Shares in Freeserve, in which Dixons retains an 80 per cent interest, rebounded 14p to 195.5p amid a rebound in the broader market led by gains in technology and telecoms stocks.

Vocalis is understood to be in talks with other ISPs to provide similar services.