Following the news that Google was testing VoIP-like features within Gmail, official word has now come from Mountain View saying that the service is going live - in the States to begin with.

Using the Google Voice and Video Chat platform, users will now be able to call actual phone numbers as well, with calls within the US and to Canada for free "at least the rest of the year".

Rates to other countries are pretty cheap as well, with Google even providing a handy comparison chart that looks at its prices compared to a "Leading internet telephony provider". Hmmm, we wonder who that could be.

The new service also integrates with Google Voice, if you've got an account, by displaying your Google Voice number as the caller ID, and giving you the opportunity to receive calls to your number from within Gmail as well.

Google said, via its Gmail blog:

"Gmail voice and video chat makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family using your computer’s microphone and speakers. But until now, this required both people to be at their computers, signed into Gmail at the same time. Given that most of us don’t spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, wouldn’t it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?

"We’ve been testing this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations, ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant to placing a call when you’re in an area with bad reception".

Google's new voice call service is rolling out to US based Gmail accounts first, UK users will just have to sit tight. You could always try Skype whilst you're waiting.