WASHINGTON (AP) _ Another vestige of the Cold War will disappear Friday when Americans will be able to call Cuba direct - something they haven't been able to do in 30 years.

Washington-based MCI said it plans to initiate direct dial service between the United States and Cuba at 5 p.m. EST Friday. Rival AT&T Corp., which planned to offer direct dial service earlier this month, will have it available by the same time, said spokesman Herb Linnen.

MCI customers will be charged $1.49 a minute if they are not part of a discount program, said spokesman Paul Luthringer. MCI is offering customers on calling plans specially discounted rates as an inducement to call Cuba. AT&T's rate will be the same and discounts will be available, the company said.

Four other U.S. long-distance companies have plans to provide direct service.

The U.S. government cleared the way for direct dial service between the two countries in October, when it approved fees U.S. companies will pay the Cuban government to complete service.

Until 1992, the U.S. embargo against Cuba precluded any upgrading of telecommunications services.

But the Cuba Democracy Act, which took effect that year, authorized improvements as a means of enhancing contacts across the Straits of Florida.

MCI's entry into the Cuban phone market ends an era in which AT&T has been the only authorized U.S. provider of telephone service to Cuba. AT&T currently routes calls between the two countries through Italy.

AT&T will activate an undersea cable to provide direct service to the island. Equipment problems have delayed the service, Linnen said.

MCI will transport calls via satellite. Both companies will have to connect to Cuba's telecommunications network on one end and local U.S. telephone companies on the other.

To reach a number in Cuba, a caller must dial the international access code (011), then the country code (53), then a city code (7 for Havana, for example), then the phone number.

The other U.S. companies planning to provide service are Wiltel International Inc., LDDS Communications Inc., Sprint Communications Co. and IDB WorldCom Services Inc.