Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – iNum, the first global phone number

Today’s post from Mobile Industry Review.

I’ve been looking at iNum, a new service from Voxbone. iNum has launched as a global phone number that isn’t tied to a specific geographical location. It uses the new global ‘country code’ 883 to give users a number that will reach them wherever they are, with no geographical implications. Voxbone’s vision is that phone numbers should no longer be defined by geography but should be linked to individuals and businesses wherever they or their customers are located.

Voxbone provides iNum numbers to service providers who make them available to customers as part of their own service offering. An example here is Iotum’s Calliflower conferencing service which is offering iNum access on their premium service.  Other early partners include Truphone, Gizmo5, Rebtel and Voxeo.

iNum pricing is an interesting area. Calls between iNum service providers are free of charge, whereas calls from outside the iNum community will incur a small charge from Voxbone, which will be reflected in the cost of calling an iNum from a mobile or landline. Voxbone expects calls from outside the iNum community to cost no more than a local call. Voxbone provides service providers with iNums free of charge and the service providers choose what they charge customers for an iNum.

Voxbone are in the process of negotiating access deals with operators worldwide to ensure it’s easy to call an iNum. At the present time this is still somewhat limited so if you pick up your mobile you won’t be able to reach an iNum direct. Voxbone’s short term fix for this is to have local access numbers around the world that allow an iNum to be reached via a two stage dial process. So in the UK I can call 020 3355 6363 and enter the iNum number I want to reach. Not particularly user friendly but a good short term fix to provide ubiquitous access.

The big challenge for Voxbone is to gain recognition of 883 as the iNum global ‘country code’. iNum’s target customers will often be international travellers with a good understanding of technology who will be receptive to this type of product. Voxbone also has plans for an iNum global directory service to make it easier for iNum users to connect with each other. As more service providers come on stream this will also help to raise the 883 profile.

I’ve been testing out a couple of iNum numbers from providers who are among Voxbone’s launch partners. Calls between a single service provider’s numbers, between two service providers and from the PSTN using a local access number are all working well and call quality is great.

At the moment iNum is a voice only product which may limit its appeal to potential users as most of us already have enough phone numbers for people to reach us on! However Voxbone plans to add SMS, video and presence to iNum and these features will start to add real value to the iNum concept and differentiate it from other contact media.

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