Customers can dial a number from any phone in the United States to access their Yahoo account and speak the name or number of a person listed in their Yahoo address book. Net2Phone's telecom network then completes the call to anywhere in the country.
AOL and Microsoft offer similar phone-based options through AOL Anywhere and MSN Messenger, respectively, part of a push to attract customers by offering new services.
Net2Phone and Yahoo started a service in October 2000 that allowed Yahoo customers to make phone calls from a PC. The service also provided voicemail as well as access to Yahoo e-mail and content by phone. The new voice-activated service is free, but phone-to-phone calls cost 10 cents a minute within the United States, while PC-to-phone calls cost two cents a minute.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Net2Phone's network runs on VoIP (voice-over-IP) technology, which splits voice data into many packets and sends them over a telecom network in separate pieces to their destination, where they are reassembled into a regular voice call.
The technology uses bandwidth more efficiently and reduces cost, compared with a traditional circuit-switch call, which delivers voice data in its entirety using a continuous connection.