Microsoft and telecommunications provider, MCI, has announced a multi-year partnership to offer software and services that will allow users to call from a PC to almost any phone in the world.
The move pits the two companies against rival Skype Technologies SA's SkypeOut service.
The Microsoft-MCI VOIP service, MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, would be available as part of the upcoming successor to Microsoft Messenger, called Windows Live Messenger, the companies said in a statement.
Like SkypeOut, users of the Microsoft-MCI service will pay a fee to make VOIP calls from their PC to phones. Users will have to sign up for a subscription to the service.
Users would receive one free hour of calls and would pay rates starting from $US0.023 per minute to phones in the US., Canada, the UK and Western Europe during the beta testing period, the statement said.
Final rates for the service would be announced in 2006, it said.
Under terms of the agreement with Microsoft, MCI will handle customer registration, terminating calls, customer support and billing for the service, according to the statement.
Users will be able to purchase prepaid calling time from MCI in $US5, $US10 and $US25 blocks for the service, it said.
The VOIP service was currently being offered as a beta with subscriptions currently available in the US, the statement said.
Microsoft and MCI expected to expand the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to include France, Germany, Spain and the UK in the coming weeks, it said.