InterComms :: International Communications Project
  Intercomms Issue 17
Issue 17 Articles

VoIP Revolutionizes Inbound Communications

Rod Ullens, CEO and co-founder of Voxbone, discusses how VoIP changed the way enterprises and service providers can get toll free or local phone numbers from abroad

PDF icon Download article as PDF
Rod Ullens, CEO, Voxbone
Rod Ullens, CEO, Voxbone

Rod Ullens is CEO and Co-Founder of Voxbone, market leader in worldwide geographical, toll-free and iNum® telephone numbers. Voxbone enables Internet communications services providers, wholesale carriers and mobile and fixed national operators to extend their network reach internationally, rapidly and with limited costs. Voxbone delivers high-quality inbound communications from more than 50 countries and more than 4,000 cities, using its own private global VoIP network – the world’s first and largest backbone dedicated to voice-origination services.

Before founding Voxbone, he provided advice, training and seminars to European carriers, such as Belgacom mobile, KPN, France Telecom and Orange, as well as several European governments.

He holds a B.S. in telecommunication engineering from the University of Louvain in Belgium.

In the early days, IIC required a corporation to subscribe to the international toll-free service of its local service provider, which usually meant the national incumbent. Through bilateral agreements with foreign incumbent service providers, the local incumbent could provide national toll-free numbers from other countries and then map those numbers to a local phone number. But this system posed numerous challenges. Because regulations and pricing for international toll-free numbers are different from country to country, the costs were considerable and included a monthly rental fee for each number, local cost per minute for each call to a toll-free phone number, and an additional transit cost per minute for the international transport of the call.

Over time, a second option emerged, in which a foreign service provider or carrier was contacted directly. An order was placed for local or toll-free numbers and international bandwidth to transport voice calls back to the company’s main switch or PBX. The advantage to this option was that companies could have regular local phone numbers in a foreign country, as opposed to only toll-free numbers. Again, however, this alternative carried substantial costs. For each country, dedicated bandwidth was needed, often requiring the company to deal with different service providers for each country. This increased internal project management and operational costs.

Over the past few years, however, two developments have changed the way in which IICis handled.

First was the introduction of global phone numbers, which initially had only been used for satellite telephone networks. International Networks is the name given by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to country calling codes 882, 883 and 888, which support telephone services not dedicated to a single country. These global numbers have many benefits. First, they are not bound by geography. Additionally, they bridge the PSTN and IP worlds.

For instance, Voxbone in November 2008 launched its unique iNum® service using the new 883 country code for global IP communications. Unlike traditional phone numbers, iNums are integrated with IP, so can support VoIP, SMS, high-definition voice, and video.

Global toll-free phone numbers exist, as well. Also issued by the ITU, they are referred to as Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFNs). As with local (0)80X area codes issued for local toll-free services, the call is free for the caller and the receiver pays the charges. UIFNs use ITU country code 800, so no matter where the caller is, only the international access code (IAC), the UIFN country code (800) and the eight-digit UIFN need to be called.
Despite the growing popularity of these global numbers, they have several shortcomings. UIFNs for example are supported in only 60 countries. Even within those countries, some service providers don’t route to them because they are not familiar with global country codes. Furthermore, rates for calling to these numbers vary from country to country. It is generally expected that access to these global numbers will improve and that rates for using them will be standardized over time. This belief is supported by the fact that global institutions such as the United Nations have introduced global phone numbers, including numbers in the 888 country code that Voxbone is supplying for disaster relief.

Another emerging option to global phone numbers for virtual international presence is Direct Inward Dialing (DID), sometimes referred to as direct dial-in or DDI. DID is made up of local phone numbers that are terminated on a local PSTN to VoIP gateway. From there, calls to these numbers are transported to anywhere in the world at a fraction of the cost of leased circuits or international transit through private or public VoIP networks. In addition to offering substantial savings, DID providers usually serve many countries, so any international phone number can be sourced from a single service provider. Given the disruptive character of this new business model, several service providers, including Voxbone, have developed specialities in this domain.

Voxbone logo
For more information visit:

Voxbone Global Offices
Upcoming Events
Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict
Other publications by Intercomms: