iNum Goes Wideband

Voxbone, based in Brussels, Belgium, is an aggregator and provider of DID (direct inward dialing) phone numbers to some 1,200 carrier and enterprise clients, and a sizeable provider of VoIP transport services as well.

iNum (for international Number), launched in the fall of 2008, is an ambitious project in which Voxbone is/will be transferring some 100 million DIDs in the +883 area code—which is not associated with a country or other geographical area—to its carrier clientele for free distribution to end users.

The idea is, free phone numbers for those who want to blaze a new telephony trail, one in which a phone number can remain permanently valid and workable wherever its “owner” happens to be. And, since the the majority of participating carrier clients are VoIP providers, most iNums are, to all intents and purposes, roving international VoIP numbers.

In theory, an iNum gets around the area-code/phone number hassles involved in traveling—as well as in more permanent relocation.

This week, at the HD [high-definition] Communications Summit in New York, Voxbone announced another benefit for iNum holders: support for the HD (aka ‘wideband’) voice codec G.722. Later in the fourth quarter, Voxbone will introduce other HD codecs as well.

“In equipping our iNum numbers with high-definition voice, we are bringing a key piece—a uniform identifier—to the emerging HD ecosystem,” said Rod Ullens, Voxbone CEO. “Many endpoints and a lot of isolated networks, such as Skype, already support HD, but there needs to be a standard way for any service provider to reach a particular HD endpoint. HD-enabled iNum offers the perfect solution.”

While the improvement in HD voice quality is aesthetically impressive, there’s a practical benefit as well.

For example, Ullens said: “The HD voice capability enables a global help desk to publicize one ‘local’ number for all English-speaking customers anywhere in the world, another for all Spanish-speaking customers, and so on. The clarity of high definition tremendously helps callers to these numbers, who often are listening in their second or third languages—or listening to non-native speakers.”

Note that in order for HD voice to work—achieving that ‘in-the-room’ sound quality you’ve heard if you’ve used Skype with a good headset—both endpoints must support the HD codec, and the call has to be IP, end to end. (The call cannot traverse the PSTN at any point. Transcoding to SS7 curtails the call’s bandwidth down to standard (low) PSTN rates, with a resulting loss in sound quality. That lost dimension cannot be restored if/when the call switches back to the IP network.)

However, most iNum calls should be able to support HD voice because most iNum traffic is transmitted by service providers that have migrated to IP or begun operation as VoIP carriers.

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