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Need a number? Talk to the phone

Yahoo will offer voice-activated dialing as part of its phone services plan. It's just another example of the portal's efforts to get its business beyond the Web.

Yahoo on Wednesday announced that it now offers voice-activated dialing as part of its phone services to customers, another example of the Web portal's efforts to expand its offerings beyond the Web.

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.