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INums: Staying in Touch While Changing Phone Numbers 20 Times

People who move a fair amount in their lives have trouble staying in touch, especially by phone. Every time they get a new address, they get a new phone number. That makes it hard for all but their closest friends to keep track of them. A recent Voxbone survey showed how much of a problem that can be over time. The survey found that some 26 percent of respondents had had more than 20 phone numbers in their lives. And 70 percent had lost contact with people as a result of changing phone numbers.

Modern life makes the problem both worse and better. People are moving more than they were, but the ways they have to stay in touch are also increasing. They can, for example, keep e-mail addresses not tied to specific Internet service providers permanently. And in some countries, they can port their old phone numbers to new subscriber accounts when they change carriers.

Better yet are virtual numbers, which are inbound numbers not linked to any physical phone line or account. Users can access a Web portal to have incoming calls to the virtual numbers forwarded to any landline or mobile phone. That's as useful when changing jobs as when changing homes. But neither portability nor virtual numbers help much when moving between countries.

Voxbone's iNum initiative aims to solve that problem as well. When fully functioning, it will let friends call a person's iNum number from any country around the world. An iNum consists of the country code 883 and the individual subscriber number. Calls to iNums will travel over the Internet to wherever the subscriber is located. They will then ring on the the subscribers' conventional phones or SIP accounts. The caller will pay only the cost of a local call.

There's still some work ahead to make that happen. Callers currently have to dial access numbers, which are available in 45 countries, then the iNum. The ability to dial just the iNum directly depends on Voxbone's ability to strike deals will local phone companies around the world. INums subscriber numbers, which Voxbone provides to phone companies for free, are currently available through a number of VoIP providers. A somewhat larger group of VoIP providers routes calls from their users to iNum subscribers, with no need for access numbers.

Though the service is limited at present, its momentum is building. Voxbone recently assigned its 15 millionth iNum, which means there are a lot of users looking for local access. More important, the first incumbent carrier has just opened its network to iNum. That means it's now possible to dial an iNum directly and reach its subscriber.


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