The relatively recent entrant to the VoIP service world, which made waves by offering $19.95 unlimited calling plans that include Europe in their footprint, is now offering its customers incoming numbers from throughout the world.
Lingo, the high-speed Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone service launched in June, is the first Voice over IP service provider to offer its North American customers international phone numbers from multiple cities.
When a U.S. Lingo customer selects a number from one of 12 available countries for their service, their family, friends, and business associates in that country can call the Lingo customer on that number at the price of an in-country local call.
Lingo, introduced by Primus Telecommunications, Inc., claims it “is the first and only major U.S. Internet broadband phone service to provide international phone numbers outside of North America to its customers.”
Smaller service providers serving specific immigrant “niche” markets already offer telephone numbers from some non-US countries in the U.S., but Lingo is the first to offer its customers multiple numbers.
These numbers, referred to as Lingo "International Universal Numbers," allow a customer, for example, to add a local Tokyo phone number to their Lingo service, even though their primary home or business office is actually located in Chicago. Callers in Tokyo can then dial that number from their phone in Tokyo to reach the Lingo customer – all at the cost of a local call to them.
Lingo customers currently may sign up online for two phone numbers on their Lingo phone line. They have the opportunity to keep their existing phone number, or may select from a broad range of phone numbers in over 220 U.S. area codes. Now, in addition to US and Canadian numbers, they can select International Universal Numbers outside of North America for $9.95 per number, available in:
- Australia — Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
- Brazil ( Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro);
- France (Paris);
- Guatemala (Guatemala City);
- Hong Kong;
- Italy ( Milan, Rome);
- Japan ( Tokyo);
- Netherlands ( Amsterdam);
- Puerto Rico (San Juan);
- South Korea ( National, Seoul);
- Taiwan ( Taipei);
- U.K. ( London).
Gerry Simone, a marketing specialist with Lingo, says numbers in other countres will soon be added.
"We chose these numbers based upon the ethnicities and size of the markets," Simone said, though she conceded that what may be the two largest foreign markets for North America — China and Mexico — are not included. Both countries have strong telecommunications regulations in place that prevent the exportation of phone numbers.
Still, Lingo's offering is an important first step in what Simone says is an effort to "tear down the borders" of telecommunications.
"This is a major development in telephony," said Simone. "It is not outside the realm of possibility for us to become a truly gloabal internet telephony service provider.