For example, MCI's technology, Vault--which combines traditional phone lines with packet-switched networks such as the Net--could let home buyers research mortgage rates using a lender's Web site and then, by clicking a voice button, link directly to the mortgage counselor to fill out a loan application.
The technology also would also allow a traveling executive to check email while returning phone calls, and access all messages, such as voice, fax, pager and email, from a single Web site.
"Customers demand more integration of telephones and computers in today's digital world," said MCI President Tim Price.
AT&T made a similar announcement in August, although MCI called its deal the first "broad commercial application of this technology."
MCI's announcement came on the same day that the Killen & Associates research firm released a study forecasting that voice and Internet services sales will top $63 billion by the year 2002, up from $741 million this year. It warned, however, that the new business could come at the expense of regular telephone revenue.
Technologies such as MCI's can help utilize both networks and possibly capture more revenue. It also could be helpful for consumers since Net phone calls are made directly over the Net, and the sound quality can be inconsistent. On the other hand, Net calls can be cheaper because users are dialing into a local ISP.