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Infinity Times Infinity - Telephone Numbers Should Be Free


I overheard some school yard bragging of my 8 year old. "A million!" his schoolmate said. "A billion!" my son responded. "Infinity." came the reply. "Infinity times infinity!" With that my son prevailed because everyone knows there's an unlimited amount of numbers and in 2nd grade multiplication is the biggest operation possible on a number. Everyone except the cartel controlling telecoms knows there are unlimited numbers. They live in an alternate reality where they have people believing that numbers are finite, calls should be charged per minute, and the distance determines the cost. There's no correlation between their costs and their billing methodology - it's all about maximizing profits. My VOIP company and others are putting pressure on the industry to move away from per minute based calling and it's definitely happening with more companies offering customers unlimited calling for one fee.

Phone companies have created an illusion of a limited amount of phone numbers to justify an unreasonably high charge for a simple telephone number. To buy a telephone number it costs $5-100 per month depending on the country. This is an artificial cost that is not in proportion to the actual costs of a number assignment which should be a one time cost of just pennies. The numbers should be allocated freely because the user will spend money in other ways that make it profitable.

My VOIP company SIPphone decided to build a system that would give people free local telephone numbers in countries around the world for free. No monthly fee. No per minute fee. No setup fee. To do this we had to come up with a clever system. (I don't get any credit for this by the way. Others at SIPphone came up with this idea. I'm just the messenger.) We wanted to make it easy for anyone to use so we decided to use our Gizmo Call technology. This unique technology allows users to make calls directly from a web browser using flash technology and a plugin. For this project we needed to allow people to receive calls so we expanded Gizmo Call to allow users to do just that by opening a browser, putting in their account information, and their browser will ring whenever a call is received.


The next step was to make it easy to get a telephone number. To get a free local number you simply go to Gizmo Call, log in and type in a telephone number of someone you would like to call in any country. Immediately a local telephone number for that country is assigned to you. If you make a call to that person using Gizmo Call they will see your new number on their caller ID so they can call you back. Gizmo Call provides a form so you can send an email message or SMS message with your number to the person as well. Call a friend in France and you'll get a French local telephone number. Call a friend in Canada and you'll get a Canadian local number. You can get free numbers in more than 20 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, UK, Sweden - you can see the complete list here. (If we are unable to get telephone numbers in a country then you will get a US telephone number assigned to you.)

One very useful feature is that the local telephone number can be forwarded to another number. Since people are not going to always be in front of their computer there's a convenient call forwarding option that can be configured. Your French friend can still dial your local number, but the call will be forwarded to a landline or mobile number that you designate. There is a small per minute charge for this feature.


Now if you're a skeptical reader (and I hope you are on the Internet) you should be wondering how SIPphone can give free telephone numbers when we are acquiring them from the aforementioned cartel who charges $5-100/month. To accomplish this we used special types of telephone numbers and some smart algorithms. First, we purchased business type telephone numbers that allow multiple channels. Just as a business can receive multiple simultaneous calls to the same number, each of the numbers in our system can as well. Secondly, we actually assign people the same telephone number and use Caller ID to determine where to route the call. Let me give you an example. Let's say I have a friend in Finland named Markku who I call from Gizmo Call. On his phone he would see a local Finnish number. And you have a friend named Tommi in Finland who you call from Gizmo Call who sees the exact same number. If Markku dials the number our system remembers the Caller ID and knows he is trying to reach me. If Tommi dials the number then our system again uses Caller ID and knows he is trying to reach you. And if you're thinking through all the possibilities if two people call Markku the system is smart enough to always use different numbers.

What this allows SIPphone to do is to purchase telephone numbers and have them shared by millions of users. Because so many people are sharing the number the cost to each user is very small and can be covered as a marketing expense. This number sharing does mean there's a limitation for users. Specifically, we need to know the numbers you want to receive calls from in advance. It's very easy to type these into Gizmo Call. And we've created a convenient address book that keeps track of your local numbers for you so you can reference them at anytime.

I hope you will give Gizmo Call with free local numbers a try. It's especially useful if you have cross country calling habits. Long distance business and romance relationships will be more affordable than ever. Let me know your thoughts in the forum.

-- MR

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