I’ve been doing a bit of research lately on phone setup for my new startup, Hiive Systems. Part of the establishment work is around phone numbers, and I’ve learned a few things I thought might be worth sharing.
Firstly, I’ve learned that – in Australia anyway – VoIP services haven’t yet come of age. Even after iPrimus came and gave a presentation at the Australian Telecommunication Users Group about their new VoIP services (and how their roll-out for Rebel Sport saved a lot of money and made them much more efficient), the presenter admitted that it is really about point to point type services where you’ve got multiple offices.
Secondly, I’ve learned a bit more about the 1300 and 1800 phone number system. We’ve had a 1800 number with Internetrix for a while, and we got it as part of a long distance plan through AAPT some time ago. In setting things up with Hiive, I wanted to have another look at how it all works.
Turns out, there are lots of companies out there that specialise in these sorts of services. Generally, you pay a monthly fee, usually with no committment, and then you pay a price per minute to receive calls. The prices of two companies, AllTel and Telcoworx are included in the attached spreadsheet, which you can see by clicking here.
These companies will route your call to any landline – or, for a higher cost, mobile – number you like, which makes sense. What surprised me the most, however, is that the difference between 1300 (cheaper, because the caller pays something) and 1800 (free to the caller) is bugger all. So, given 1800 numbers look a bit better/more professional/generous, we’ll be getting one of those.
The other thing that was new info is how the numbers are allocated. Since this is a national namespace, it works a bit like domain names, and some numbers – which can spell your company name on the handset – cost more than others. There’s a Federal body responsible for auctioning off numbers that are more in-demand, usually because they use a lot of repetition – called SmartNumbers which appear to be a part of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
What surprised me was how they price these numbers. By going to the search form on the SmartNumbers website, you can do a search for the phone number you want, and they’ll tell you if it is a premium number, which they’ve determined will have a reserve price at an auction; the more repeating numbers, the higher the reserve it would appear.
As a result, changing the leading digit at the beginning of the number I’m looking for – I’ll keep it a secret for the moment until I’ve won the auction – changes the price from being a reserve of $500 to, in one case, a reserve of $12,500 – that’s a 25x increase in reserve!
Also like domain names, it would appear that once you’ve got one of these numbers, you become the “Rights of Use” holder; I think this is a bit like a lease on a domain name; you never own the domain, but you have the rights to it exclusively.
I remember a Fourth Estate Domain presentation some time ago with the (younger) Jack Singleton, who runs/ran Phone Names, and was trying to tap into this gold rush aspect. While it looks like the Feds have wised up with an auction system to stop companies “claiming” the rights to thousands of names, just to on-sell them like domain squatters, the more open nature of the process now should make people in business think about reserving a number that matches their business name.