* Vonage expanding international service to 73 countries
* Offer costs $24.99 a month
By Sinead Carew
NEW YORK, Aug 19 Vonage Holdings Corp (VG.N) plans to expand its unlimited international telephone service to 73 countries in hopes of stemming customer losses and fending off rivals like eBay Inc's (EBAY.O) Skype or Google Inc (GOOG.O) as well as more traditional phone companies.
The Web telephone service provider, which has been losing out to cell phones and other services, said the offer will include unlimited international calls and conversion of voicemails to text form, using a technology from Nuance Communications Inc (NUAN.O). It costs $24.99 a month,
Starting Thursday, the service will be expanded to include countries like India, China and Mexico, among dozens of others. At the moment, the international plan allows customers unlimited calls to only about 13 overseas locations.
However, since many overseas operators charge hefty termination fees for calls to mobile phones, the service only allows unlimited calls to cell phones in 15 of the countries.
Vonage Chief Executive Marc Lefar said the unlimited offer would attract new customers and help stop existing customers from leaving as subscribers who use international calling services tend to stay with Vonage longer.
"You don't have to be a particularly heavy user of international calling on a pay-per-minute basis to convert to our plan ... and see significant savings," Lefar told Reuters in an interview.
Lefar said he hoped the offer would attract customers of traditional rivals such as AT&T Inc (T.N) and Verizon Communications (VZ.N), as well as customers who use discount international calling cards, which can frustrate callers by requiring them to dial long access codes along with the destination number.
Vonage users will just dial the number they want to call .
Lefar, who took the top job at Vonage last summer, said his company would improve subscriber numbers by launching more new products such as a mobile phone application that it is planning to offer by the end of the year.
"We still need to get the growth engines moving at a faster rate. Churn still needs to be improved and we think these kind of offerings will help us do that," he said. (Reporting by Sinead Carew, editing by Matthew Lewis)