Virtual telephone numbers are available for purchase in many countries around the world – but not available in many others. For instance, virtual numbers are not allowed in India as of this writing.In general, countries that restrict use of virtual numbers are also countries that regulate use of VoIP internet telephony – and, usually, telecom markets in general.In such countries, governments are typically trying to nuture incumbent telephone companies and protect them from low-cost competitors, especially from low-cost VoIP companies.
A virtual telephone number is a phone number used to forward incoming phone calls on to another telephone number – the ‘destination number’.
Virtual numbers can be used for many reasons by both consumers and businesses. Some examples:
1 Individuals use them to make it cheaper and easier for family, friends or business associates in another country to reach them
2 Small businesses use them to take calls or orders from customers based in another country
3 Large companies use them for customer service lines which are routed to call centers in other countries
Virtual phone numbers come in two flavors:
1 Virtual local numbers which use a regular local landline or mobile phone number as the virtual number. The virtual number has an area code associated with a specific geographic location.
2 Virtual toll-free numbers which use a normal toll-free phone number as the virtual number. The toll-free number typically has a generic area code associated with toll free calling. The number may be on a plan that allows toll free calls from a specific region or nationwide.
Both types of virtual numbers work roughly the same way, except for 2 main differences.
One difference is that virtual local numbers are free to the inbound caller if the the number’s area code is included as part of the caller’s calling plan. Callers from outside the local service area would need to pay any long-distance charges themselves. For example, if you had a local virtual number for Baltimore, then callers from in and around the Baltimore service area would be able to call that number for free. As well, people on nationwide calling plans might also be able to call the number for free.In contrast, with a toll-free number the inbound caller pays normally nothing regardless of where they are calling from – any long distance charges are passed along to the toll-free number subscriber.The second main difference is the monthly cost of a local vs. toll-free virtual numbers to the virtual number owner / subscriber. Generally, toll-free virtual numbers are considerably more expensive than local virtual phone numbers. Not only does the toll-free number have a higher baseline monthly subscription cost, but also the toll-free subscriber must pay any charges related to inbound leg of any calls.As a result, toll-free virtual numbers are generally not a viable cost saving solution for individuals, though they may work well for businesses.