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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 16:43 GMT
Breathe freely with new deal

The UK internet service providers, Breathe and LineOne, have joined the race to grab customers by offering free web access.

For a one-off set-up fee of 50 ($80), Breathe is promising internet connection for life, free from subscription fees and call charges.

We invested in Breathe because we are confident that we are backing the future leading mobile internet provider in Europe.

Chase Capital Partners
It says it will make its money from advertising and e-commerce, and also mobile services it says will be available through its site.

As ever, the small print takes the gloss off the headline, but it still appears to be an attractive deal.

LineOne is making a similar offer, with a 20 ($32) one-off fee, but it is stipulating that users must spend at least 5 ($8) a month on voice calls through its telecoms partner, Quip.

Subject to availability

Breathe is initially offering the service only to "50,000 of our existing users", starting on 3 April.

It says this is to ensure it retains the level of service that prompted Internet Magazine to vote it Best Free ISP in the UK for 1999.

It might also have something to do with the costs involved before mobile revenues kick in and the danger of being so inundated with subscribers that its service grinds to a damaging halt.

Breathe says it will expand the deal to more users only "when possible".

The deal is limited to access from a single home number, so users will not be able to surf for free via Breathe from anywhere else.

The company also says the service is not intended to be used as a permanent connection to the internet and that it will not allow this to happen.

So anyone planning to log on and stay on could expect to find their connection terminated rather abruptly.

Mobility is the key

Breathe was founded in 1998 out of Martin Dawes Telecommunications.

Last month, it announced it had received a 20m equity injection by a syndicate of venture capitalists led by Chase Capital Partners, 3i and Flatiron Partners.

Chase spokesman John Arney said: "We invested in Breathe because we are confident that we are backing the future leading mobile internet provider in Europe."

Breathe's chief operating officer, Sean Gardner, said: "Breathe's mobile internet strategy for new revenue-generating services and applications will ensure that we stay one step ahead of increasing competition from mobile telecoms operators and internet start-ups."

Breathe says from April its portal will include new content from "Emap, the Guardian,, MapQuest and over 70 other providers, including Wap and SMS-bases services."

LineOne and Quip

One of the UK's fastest-growing ISPs, LineOne is offering unlimited net access, free of any subscription or phone call charges, but users must spend a minimum of 5 a month on voice calls.

This will cost users nothing they are not already spending on their monthly telephone bill.

Steve Gandy, Quip chief executive

LineOne says there will also be discounts on national and international voice calls.

For a one-off fee of 20, users will be sent a dialler which they plug in to their BT wall sockets. This routes their calls to the Quip network.

Quip is an internet start-up backed by BT, Bank of Scotland and Unisys offering low-cost international calls through the telecoms reseller market.

The service will start on 31 March and is subject to availability.

Price wars

Other low-cost internet access deals have been announced in recent weeks.

This has hit shares in Freeserve, the UK's biggest ISP, which makes its money from taking a proportion of the telephone call charges.

Cable operator NTL is tying its "free" offer to users spending a minimum amount on its voice telephone services, and Telewest and Callnet0800 have similar deals.

Altavista is retaining a small subscription fee in its new service, which is due to start sometime later in the year.

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See also:

09 Mar 00 | Business
BT announces global mobile service
07 Mar 00 | Business
Internet price war heats up
05 Mar 00 | Business
Altavista heralds net revolution
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