Are we ready for universal phone numbers?

A number is just an identifier. It is universal in the sense that as long as your phone number can identify what you are dialing it can then route the call for you.

The question should be when will such a directory be available to the general public? A directory which would list all numbers and advise you what is the quickest and cheapest way to route your call to that endpoint.

The SIP protocol partially solves this issue. According to SIP your phone number is similar to an email address. For example if you dial on a SIP phone today you will reach me. How does that work?

A SIP address like an email is divided into 2 major parts. Your name and your domain. Like email SIP uses the DNS system to figure where is the server that hosts my domain. When you call me, your phone will contact my domain and say I have a call for Moshe, where can he be reached? The server will have that knowledge based on what I have registered with him. My server will forward a message to my phone saying someone wants to speak to you, do you want to speak to him? In reality the phone will ring and if I will pick it up the message will go back to the originator – “please initiate the call”

The problem is that SIP while it is proliferating very fast is not yet ubiquitous. Many phone companies use a general directory and peer between themselves, but this is not open to the public. So for example if you are on AT&T and call a number on Cablevision, AT&T will look up the number, see that it is on the CV network and send it directly to CV via a IP peering arrangement saving money and resources for both companies.

There are a number of initiatives out there, but none have caught on yet. Unlike email which introduced a completely new medium, the phone network is based on a legacy network and change will take many years.

If we look into the future – internet everywhere, voice recognition etc. All you need to do is say out loud “Call Moshe” and a device somewhere on your body will place a call to “Moshe”. Here is the catch – there must be a directory somewhere. How will the network know where Moshe is? In order for a directory to be effective it must be universal. There are a number of open source protocols that bring us very close, but they need to be implemented. That is already a commercial and political issue

Hosted VoIP is Dead!

Yea sure! That is what they have been telling me ever since I founded The Flat Planet Phone Company, almost 6 years ago. You have competition, the big guys will kill you etc. etc.
Recently I came back from the annual ITExpo (Internet Telephony) conference in Miami Beach. Based on the vibrancy of the show, the growth in the number of participants, the excitement in the air – the Hosted VoIP business has never been better.

As one of the analysts at the show told me there are now over 1000 VoIP providers in the USA alone, and Surprise Surprise there is plenty of business for all of us. IP based communications have opened up endless opportunities for the user and the entrepreneur. Recently, API platforms such as Twillio and Tropo have blown the telephony application wide open. Literally anything is possible. Companies like ifbyphone and are just the beginning.

Contrary to those who tried to discourage me, the last 6 years have been great. Our company has grown very nicely, It has been exciting working with resellers and building together with them, profitable ventures. The best is still ahead of us. If you are a VAR or reseller in the internet and telephony space please contact me to see how can join us and build a nice recurring income stream!

When a Zero is Worth Money!

Zeros are like restaurants, value is all a matter of location.

$00001 is almost worthless, but $10000 can get you places. The same thing with phone numbers.
A phone number like 408-506-1020 is not worth nearly as much as 408-560-1000. Although Google has changed the way we search for phone numbers to the extent that some companies do not advertise their phone numbers anymore and they advertise “look for us on Google”, phone numbers are still important.

Numbers with a string of zeros in the right place are still sought after! In addition to being easy to remember they still have an additional job.
212-550-6000 conveys a message of size and stability, whereas 646-567-8921 looks more like your cellphone. Today when anyone can open a website and compete with you for business, a premium number gives you an additional advantage.

My belief in the importance of phone numbers is so strong that over the years I have built up a collection :-)
But like with any collection, there comes a time when you need to part with it. If you feel that a good number can help you, feel free to contact me.

Do we still need Phone Numbers?

In this day of email, Facebook and Skype, you may wonder if there is any meaning or value to a phone number.
After all it is just one of many methods (and not the most convenient of them) to contact someone

With IP communications could be my phone number in addition to may email address. Voice communications are just another
way of sending bits and bytes from one person to another. The popular SIP protocol supports multiple types of media so in fact if you dial from a SIP phone you could reach me.

That being said why are people still willing to pay large sums for 212 area code numbers (hard to get numbers in Manhattan)??
In fact at The Flat Planet Phone Company, we actually make a nice profit out of selling local phone numbers from over 50 countries to our call center customers. Our research has shown that companies who have local numbers and use our Dynamic CallerID for calls to other countries see the number of calls answered go up by 30% in some cases. Some of our Forex customers have over 30 numbers each in a different country to make it easy for traders to bet on the latest currency moves!

It seems that some habits are hard to kick. People feel comfortable with phone numbers that they know and recognize. We still “dial” a phone call, even if we are clicking on
our computer screen to make a call. My friend the blogger, Andy Abramson pushes people to say “call” and not “phone call” since many calls are not made on phones anymore. But it is not easy for people to change.

Who knows, maybe our grandchildren won’t make “phone calls” to “phone numbers” but in the meanwhile even in this digital age they are still here to stay!

How Call Centers can close 30% more sales!

Call centers invest big budgets in fine tuning their monitoring, reporting, scripts and techniques in order to close more sales.

Many times they over look small improvements that can make a big difference! For example our Dynamic CallerID service.

What is Dynamic CallerID? Say you sell to France, Germany and Italy, but your call center is in India. When you call customers in those countries they see your India CallerID. The result – many potential customers will not pick up a call when they see a foreign number that they do not recognize! The solution? Dynamic CallerID! Our system will analyse the call as you make it and insert the local CallerID for the country you are calling. Some of our customers have found that over 30% more calls are answered when using Dynamic CallerID!

We can supply you with phone numbers in over 50 countries. Even if you do not do international calls, we can also provide you with local numbers in the USA, UK and many other countries, so you can setup virtual local offices. I can assure that if your call center is in Omaha, NE the chances that a customer in Dallas TX will answer the phone will be much higher if you have a 214 number with Dynamic CallerID. Contact us today for more details at 212-796-0900

The Ultimate Data Center?

Since we plan to close our Israeli POP next week, it is a good time to describe the unusual location that is hosting our servers. Med-1 in Petach Tikva, Israel.

What is unusual about Med-1? Well to start with it is completely underground! To access the building you need to enter an underground parking lot and then take an elevator downstairs.

According to the company website the underground structure is enclosed in double layered reinforced concrete walls to protect all systems from a direct hit by a bomb (we are in the Middle East after all…). It is no wonder that Med-1 hosts the Israeli Internet Xchange router, all of Israel’s telecom players and foreign giants like AT&T, BT and others.

So why are we leaving such a prestigious facility? For purely commercial reasons. Due to the weak regulatory regime in Israel (I can rant about that all day..) it is almost impossible for small players to enter the market and succeed. We prefer to concentrate on other markets in Europe and the USA which we have found to be much more profitable.

So Goodbye Med-1!

Will President Obama call us again??

As he heads in the mid-term elections, President Obama is going all out, to replicate his success 2 years ago.

Mr. President, I am sure you remember your election day visit to the Flat Planet powered phone bank in Indiana.

My suggestion to the President is if you want to repeat your success use us again! Call The Flat Planet Phone Company. You can reach me at 212-796-0900 ext 100

Best Regards
Moshe Maeir

Flat Planet Group buys Omega Telecom

We are really excited to let you know that that we have closed an agreement to buy Omega Telecom a licensed telecom carrier based in Cyprus.

In the past few years we acquired a number of call centers based in Cyprus as customers and became familiar with the local telecom market. These call centers enjoy our unique services such as Local Phone Numbers in 50 countries with Dynamic Caller ID. With Dynamic Caller ID, call centers see a tremendous rise in calls answered and sales closed!

While there are 6-7 other active licensed carriers in Cyprus, there is plenty of room for innovative services such as those offered by our company. So when the CEO of Omega told us that he is interested in selling the company, it did not take us long to make an offer.

Why are we excited? Well for a number of reasons. Cyprus has become a major financial center due to it’s central location, membership in the EU and low tax rate. Many of these companies can profit from our IP services.

In addition we will now have our own range of geographic, premium (900), national (77) and toll free (800) numbers. In many cases we can offer a substantial payback for use of our numbers, which makes it even more profitable.

In the next few weeks we will finalize our plan and hire a local sales team. We are looking forward to becoming a major force in the Cyprus telecom market. Please contact me for more information. I will be happy to discuss with you more details!

One Line – Multiple Caller ID!

Remember the days ten, twenty years ago when you thought twice about calling your mother back home? Long Distance calls were expensive, regulated to weekends when rates were discounted.

With the 21st century came the VoIP revolution and now you could call all over the USA and even worldwide for that matter, for a few cents a minute. VoIP brought with it another benefit, even more exciting that cheap calls – Local Phone Numbers.

Instead of calling Mom, you could just give her a phone number in her home town which would ring on your phone 2500 miles away. The cost was only a few dollars a month.
Pretty quick businesses saw the opportunity and picked up numbers to give them a “local presence”. Nowadays when a call on your phone shows a NY number, you don’t if it is from NY, Chicago or maybe India….

The Vonages marketed this function heavily and many subscribers have more than one local number assigned to their line. But here is the catch – if you have more than one number what do you show on the outgoing caller id when you make a call?? After all if a NY customer calls you on your NY number, it is not very effective to return his call with a Miami number, is it?

Of course you could get multiple VoiP lines and assign different local numbers to them, or even more painful – use your providers web interface and set the outgoing caller ID each time you make a call. Not too efficient, I would say.

The past few months we have been testing the Dynamic Caller ID solution with our customers. One line (SIP account/trunk in techie language) and Multiple Caller IDs. The cool part is that the system displays the local caller ID based on the destination that you call. So for example if you call LA, the recipient of the call would see your LA number on his phone. Call London and it displays your London local number!

With Dynamic Caller ID, you need only one phone account and you can have local presence in over 50 countries! The Flat Planet Phone Company will be displaying this wonderful service next week at ITEXPO in Miami. We will be at Booth 333. Seeya there!