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A roundup of the latest high-tech news “Hot Off the Wire” from The Associated Press and Local Tech Wire:

• Skype to unveil group video chat function

SAN FRANCISCO — Internet calling service Skype plans a public "beta" test of a group video chat function that lets up to five people participate in a video call simultaneously.

When the feature launches next week it will be free, but Skype Ltd. plans to start charging for it along with some other upcoming features in three or four months, said Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype’s consumer business segment.

Skype’s software already offers a range of free services, including the ability to make voice or video calls and send instant messages to other Skype users. Users pay for services such as making calls from a PC to a landline or cell phone.

Stevens said group video chat will first be available to those who use Skype on Windows PCs, and the company expects to roll out a Mac version later this year.

Stevens said the feature is the one users have requested most.
Skype, which was sold late last year by eBay Inc. for about $2 billion to an investor group that includes Skype’s founders, is also expanding its monthly subscription offerings to include calls to both cell phones and landlines in more than 170 countries.

• Ericsson sees strong growth for mobile broadband

STOCKHOLM — The CEO of Swedish wireless equipment maker LM Ericsson AB forecasts a boom in the mobile broadband market, expecting the number of users worldwide to grow to 3.5 billion in 2015 from today’s 400 million.

Hans Vestberg says smartphones and other new mobile devices are driving the growth and that operators have begun adapting tariffs and prices to better meet customer needs.

Vestberg says Ericsson is exploring new markets beyond the traditional telecom sector, "such as cable and TV-companies, governments, healthcare, transport and utilities."

He was speaking Wednesday at Ericsson’s Capital Markets Day in Stockholm.

• Time Warner Cable, Cox asked to drop ad claims

PHILADELPHIA — An advertising watchdog has asked Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cox Communications Inc. to drop claims that they run fiber-optic networks.

Verizon Communications Inc., which operates rival television and Internet services using fiber optics, had complained about both companies’ cable ads to the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body.

The NAD said both cable TV companies describe their networks as "fiber-optic" in their advertising when in fact they are referring to networks that include both fiber and traditional, coaxial copper cable. The NAD noted that the companies described their networks as "hybrid fiber coax" in regulatory filings.

A purely fiber-optic network transmits data faster and has greater capacity than a hybrid. Verizon has been building a network that extends fiber optics to the home, rather than just a hub in the neighborhood, with traditional cable connecting from there to the residence.

Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second-largest cable TV company, is appealing the decision. The New York-based company said its network is fiber-optic because more than 90 percent of the cables are fiber. But the ad watchdog said such claims can be "misleading" if it calls attention to the most dominant characteristic.

The NAD also asked Cox to stop customer testimonials saying that Verizon would quote one price but bill at a higher price, and put a customer on phone hold for more than 30 minutes. But the watchdog upheld a Cox ad in which a customer said many channels at Cox were not available on Verizon’s FiOS TV service.

Cox, based in Atlanta, said it will take the NAD’s decision into account in future ads.