The new VoIP country number is 883, the counterpart of the 44 one dials to reach the U.K. or the 81 one uses for Japan. Putting those three digits in front of an individual subscriber's number will produce what Voxbone calls an iNum, a portable, permanent global phone number. Calling the iNum will ring the Skype or other VoIP account to which it is registered, anywhere in the world. Only companies such as Inmarsat Global Ltd. had previously obtained country codes based on technology rather than geography.
Voxbone is dealing now with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and with phone companies to make the new number range accessible for cheap prices from every country. "The goal of iNum is assuring free connectivity for all the world's VoIP users, more low-cost connectivity between VoIP and the PSTN, and unique identifiers for VoIP users worldwide", says CEO Rodrigue Ullens. That's exactly what I advocated for in July 2007 under the title "A new number range for worldwide mobile telephony is missing" in this blog:
So I think that an entire new number range is missing for worldwide mobile telephony. The best thing would be a cheap interconnect to the ++882 or ++858 number range, or something similar. These are international codes that don't belong to any particular country, but to ENUM services. It would be great if people could call them from every country for local prices. So you would never have to change SIM card or number for travel. You just had a virtual number, similar to German 032 numbers which don't belong to a particular city but to VoIP.OK, so +883 is planned for VoIP and I envisioned it for mobile telephony. But companies like Maxroam or United Mobile will surely find a way to make the new number range usable on cell phones and thus slash roaming prices for incoming calls. Be it with multi IMSI SIM cards, which can be local in several countries at a time, or as free call forward from a fixed line VoIP number as they do it today. After all it makes no difference if you have a number from Liechtenstein, Isle of Man, Iceland or a virtual country called +883 on your travel SIM. They are all weird.
Needless to say that I have directly signed up for iNum's public beta test which is scheduled to begin in June 2008. Let's hope that iNum has more success than the +878 initiative had six years ago or the Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) with country code +800, which has also failed. "Without a strategy to get all the Telcos in the world to set up routing and tariffing for this number range, calls to this number range are going to go nowhere. The problem here is that they have very little incentive to do this", says a user at the VoIP user blog.
I keep my fingers crossed.