Microsoft Corp. and MCI Inc. yesterday announced a multiyear 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 Skype Technologies SA, which offers the SkypeOut service.
The Microsoft-MCI voice-over-IP service, MCI Web Calling for Windows Live Call, will 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 PCs to phones. Users will have to sign up for a subscription to the service. Users will receive one free hour of calls and pay rates starting from 2.3 cents per minute to phones in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta-testing period, the statement said. Final rates for the service will be announced in 2006.
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 $5, $10 and $25 blocks for the service.
The VoIP service is being offered as a "beta," with subscriptions available in the U.S., the statement said. Microsoft and MCI expect to expand the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to include France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. in the coming weeks, it said.