Giving the Gift of Gab for the Holidays

From Bloomberg Business News

Talk is cheap this holiday season.

LCI International Inc. is letting customers call anywhere in the world on Christmas Day for a penny a minute for up to 30 minutes. The same rate applies New Year's Day and six other holidays throughout the year.

MCI Communications Corp. is slashing rates 44% for its "Friends and Family" members for calls today. Sprint Corp. customers who pay a dime a minute on nights and weekends will get the same rate all day Christmas and Jan. 1.

At those prices, a 10-minute call costs less than that holiday card you forgot to send.

AT&T; Corp. is touting its flat-rate plan as a holiday money-saver, charging 15 cents a minute for domestic calls.

AT&T; expects to connect 122.4 million calls on Christmas, second in holiday calling only to Mother's Day, which topped out at 129.5 million calls, said AT&T; spokeswoman Kelly Statmore.

For techies, TPS Call Sciences and ConnectCall, a telecommunications marketing company, are offering 15 minutes of free teleconferencing over the World Wide Web today.

The service can connect up to six Internet users at a time and doesn't require reservations or operator assistance like most teleconference calls. The service normally costs 25 cents a minute for U.S. calls, with a $5 minimum fee.

Others may want to check out the OutPost Network's Web site, where you can personalize cards for any holiday. For about $10, customers can record a voice message over the Internet and OutPost will tell recipients to dial a toll-free number to hear it.

Kids can send last-minute e-mail requests to Santa through BellSouth Corp. More than 8,000 letters have been delivered to the North Pole via the company's Internet access service, Web page and shopping mall kiosks.

AirTouch Communications Inc. packaged $300 of wireless services into a $159 gift. The package comes with six months of free service in AirTouch's San Diego market.

For an extra $1, AirTouch will wrap the box and donate the $1 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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