Nifty, a subsidiary of Fujitsu, plans to start an IP telephony service for its broadband subscribers early next year, said Nifty spokesman Takehiro Hayashi.
The company's comments followed local newspaper reports that seven ISPs - Nifty, NEC's Biglobe, NTT's OCN, Sony's So-net, KDDI's DION, Japan Telecom's ODN and Matsushita's hi-ho - are planning to offer an IP telephony service for their combined two million broadband customers in the second quarter of next year.
"It would be beneficial for everybody if several ISPs jointly start an IP telephony service rather than a single company starting it up - and we are hoping to prepare for such an alliance," Hayashi said.
Among Nifty's five million-plus subscribers, 430,000 are connected to the Internet via asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), cable or fibre-to-the-home network.
The service will allow users of the seven ISPs to call each other for a monthly subscription fee of only ¥300 to ¥400 (£1.58 to £2.10). To call a fixed-line user, the charge will be about ¥8 for three minutes.
The Japanese government plans to distribute 11-digit dial-up numbers for IP telephony users as early as this month, allowing them to accept calls from fixed-line phones.
Nothing has been decided regarding which ISPs are involved and what kind of service will be offered, although Nifty said it hoped to make an announcement about the service soon.
Nifty and NTT Communications are in talks on an IP telephony service, said Naotake Hashimoto, an NTT Communications spokesman. Hashimoto declined to comment on the alliance reported in the newspapers.
KDDI announced yesterday that it would start a trial IP telephony service for its ADSL subscribers next month, but said it had not been approached by the alliance.
KDDI formed a consortium in June with Japan Telecom, NEC and Matsushita to promote broadband Internet businesses, including IP telephony services.