Alltel Corp. is unveiling a new feature that uses voice-recognition software to allow wireless phone customers to read their voicemail messages as text messages.
Monthly fees for the Voice2TXT service start at $4.99, and users will still have the option to listen to the messages.
"It'll appeal to a broad customer base ... people who are in meetings quite regularly and can't take a phone call — it's very useful in those settings," said Wade McGill, Alltel's senior vice president of product management.
Alltel is using technology developed by Britain-based SpinVox. It will work on any Alltel wireless phone that can receive text messages, McGill said.
"It was one of those services that once you get it, you don't want to give it up," he said, describing the reaction of a test group.
Alltel began offering the service in a soft launch Friday. To access it, customers need to reset their voicemail and greeting. After that, the voicemail text option will be available, McGill said.
SpinVox said its Voice Message Conversion System, which converts messages in English, French, Spanish and German, eliminates the need to search for a pen to write down the details of a message or navigate through a voicemail service.
"Voice2TXT as delivered by SpinVox eliminates the frustrations with dialing into voicemail by offering a discreet, efficient alternative," said Christina Domecq, co-founder and chief executive of SpinVox.
Alltel is the first among major U.S. wireless carriers to offer such a service. A New York startup, SimulScribe Inc., unveiled a similar service at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.
Fees for the service start at $4.99 for 20 voicemail conversions a month and go up to $19.99 monthly for 100 conversions.
Little Rock-based Alltel has 12 million customers in 35 states. Last month, the company was taken private in a $24.7 billion buyout by two private equity groups.