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Mercury available from any telephone

HOUSEHOLDS will no longer need a special telephone in order to access the Mercury Communications network, writes Mary Fagan.

In a fresh offensive on the residential telephone market, Mercury - which has so far focused mainly on business customers - is targeting 5 million households which spend more than pounds 75 each on telephone bills a quarter in its 'easy access' initiative.

Mercury claims that households which make regular long distance and international calls are spending in total pounds 175m a year more than they need to on such calls by using British Telecommunications instead of Mercury.

The 'easy access' initiative means that customers no longer need a special Mercury-compatible telephone. Nor do they have to program a 10-digit number into the telephone in order to make Mercury calls. In future, Mercury users can make their calls from any telephone by dialling '132' and then the number they wish to call.

The service is available to 50 per cent of households and is likely to be expanded to about 75 per cent by the end of next year. Mercury will begin a pounds 5m television advertising campaign next week.

Although Mercury has more than 10 per cent of the telecommunications market by revenue, it has made limited inroads into the residential sector. Almost 500,000 households are connected to Mercury via BT local lines and about 200,000 through cable television companies. This compares with a total of 20 million residential customers in the United Kingdom.