MCI Communications Corp. introduced yesterday a new plan for smaller businesses.
It offers flat per-minute rates, volume and time-of-day discounts and a calling card that makes voice messages, voice mail and fax services available to mom-and-pop customers.
The new plan, MCI Preferred, is targeted at business customers who spend $50 to $1,500 a month on long-distance services, said Angela Dunlap, vice president of general business marketing for Washington-based MCI.
She said the plan is aimed at the estimated 5 million small businesses that combined spend about $6 billion annually on long-distance services.
In addition to domestic and international calling, MCI Preferred offers small businesses toll-free "800" services, fax services and a calling card that offers such features as voice messaging, conference calling, speed dialing and access to a news and information network.
Subscribers to MCI Preferred receive an automatic 10 percent discount on calls placed to the area code called the most often every month, in addition to volume and time-of-day discounts.
The calling plan is an expansion of an earlier plan that was aimed at small businesses and the debut of some fancy software that was acquired by MCI through USA Telecom.
Ms. Dunlap acknowledged thatthe new MCI Preferred calling card, called the MCI Business Card, is a version of the old Star Card offered by USA Telecom before its acquisition by MCI.
Ms. Dunlap said the new MCI Business Card was made possible through a combination of MCI's network and USA Telecom's software.
Michael Balhoff, a telephone analyst at Legg, Mason, Wood, Walker in Baltimore, said MCI's new multifaceted business card could be helpful in differentiating MCI from its competitors.
"This seems to have the possibility to stimulate some business for them," Mr. Balhoff said.
To help that along, MCI is offering a credit of up to $1,000 to businesses that sign up for the new plan before April.
The one-time credit will show up on the September phone bill, Ms. Dunlap said.