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updated 10/5/2009 10:44:33 AM ET 2009-10-05T14:44:33

Vonage Holdings Corp., an Internet-based home phone service provider, is launching applications for the iPhone and BlackBerry that undercut the international calling rates of major wireless carriers.

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The free programs let users place calls that are routed over Vonage's network, at least for the international leg.

When the phones are connected to a Wi-Fi wireless Internet hot spot, the calls go over that link, bypassing the mobile phone service carrier entirely. When Wi-Fi is not available, the calls are placed as local wireless calls, using up minutes on the cell phone plan. Vonage then carries the calls to their overseas destination.

The fact that the Vonage app for the iPhone can use the cellular voice channel is unusual. Several other voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP, apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch can already place calls over Wi-Fi. But Google Inc.'s Voice application, which is designed to use the cellular network, has not been approved.

Google says its Voice program was rejected by Apple for duplicating the built-in functions of the phone, and the Web search company implies that Apple is protecting the revenue stream of iPhone carriers like AT&T Inc. by not approving the application. Like Vonage's application, Google Voice provides low international calling rates.

Apple says the Google Voice app hasn't been rejected, but is still being reviewed for inclusion in the App Store. The Federal Communications Commission is probing the disagreement.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the company considers Vonage's application to be in the same category as other VoIP apps that have already been approved for the iPhone. She would not elaborate on whether Apple considers there to be significant differences between Vonage's program and Google Voice.

Vonage is the largest of the independent companies that supply their subscribers with adapters that let them plug their home phones into their broadband connections. The new applications for mobile phones have no direct tie to that business — subscribers to Vonage's home phones will pay the same rates as other users of the apps.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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