The increasingly competitive webmail market has a new player - instant messaging provider ICQ.

The company has brought out a fee-based service with 2GB of storage, a calendar feature, task manager, notepad, wireless access and support for both POP3 and IMAP. ICQ, owned by AOL, will charge $19.99 a year, said Ronen Arad, ICQ director of product management.

The service also includes spam filtering and blocking, protection against viruses and a 20MB ceiling on files sent or received. Other features include a translation option that translates messages into seven languages, the ability to compress large attachments and WAP support for access from a mobile device. As such, the webmail service makes it a real competitor to rival services from Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

The ICQ webmail service also has features available for additional fees. One lets users send e-mail messages to wireless devices that support SMS. Another is a video e-mail service that can be used by subscribers who have a webcam attached to their PCs; the webmail interface has VCR-like controls to record the message, which recipients in turn can play back without additional software on Windows-based PCs.

Meanwhile, ICQ has revamped its free, bare-bones webmail service. It has better message search, virus and spam protection, more ways to manage inbox messages, such as a new folder for drafts and a sent-mail confirmation feature. However, inbox storage for the free service, at only 6MB, is low compared with other providers.

The new services have seen ICQ shift its provider from Critical Path to Mail2World.