Universal Number? Yes!

Unified Communications (UC) was meant to decouple my selection of device to receive a call on from the number you need to dial to reach me. It’s finally arrived for me, but in a most unexpected manner.

It’s idiotic that in 2012 I was still asking people to call my office number, unless I’m out of the office in which case call my mobile, but my iPhone refuses to ring in our office because the coverage is poor so don’t call that when I am at the office. Oh and if I’m outside Canada I don’t check my office voice mail and Roger’s roaming is insane so neither of those will reach me, you need to call my skypeIn number. Given the caller can’t possibly know where I am before calling this just makes no sense. And not surprisingly I have been told by more than one person that I’m hard to reach. All my voice mails now say, “send me an email”.

We all want to give out a single number then separately choose how we receive that call — a Universal Number. Number portability took a decade and went about 1% of the way toward that goal. UMA, UC and a bunch of other fancy technical initiatives never worked because they didn’t acknowledge a business reality. Expecting carriers with competing interests to cooperate in any kind of standard that would reduce their pricing power is naive, nay ridiculous. In a regulated monopsony suppliers do not respond to customer desire!

Carriers have used our phone number to lock us into their rate plans since the beginning of time. The stickiness of other people knowing your number is the singular reason that telcos have been among the greatest cash cows in business history. In the long term, phone numbers go away and everyone connects by name using skype, google hangouts and the like. But meanwhile, what business pressures could lead a supplier to deliver that oft-saught and technically trivial Universal Number?

They may not cooperate, but happily it seems that one service provider, Rogers, is audacious enough to start giving away services only previously available from its competitors.

I’ve unexpectedly achieved UC nirvana by using Rogers One with one of Rogers’ new UNLIMITED calling plans; I’ve dumped my Telus office phone, dropped my SkypeIn number, canceled my “long distance” plan and lowered my total telecom costs. More importantly I now give people that single phone number that reaches me anywhere in the world. I answer on my laptop over broadband at my office, on my iPad with a jawbone headset using an AT&T SIM in the US, a local SIM or wifi in Asia and Europe, and on my iPhone away from the office but while in Canada. And I can talk for thousands of minutes per month with impunity, that is to say without feeling violated by roaming charges.

Excepting of course skype or google hangouts for those truly in the know, and for overseas outbound calls. And if you knew my mobile number then now you know my new universal number.

The future has arrived, finally!

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