The theme of the moment in internet telephony is, without a doubt, cheap international calling. Any number of vendors have stepped up with solutions to help enterprise users reduce the overseas calling costs that weigh down telecom budgets.
Latest up to the plate is Virtual PBX of San Jose, Calif., already established in the hosted PBX space. This week the company introduced international numbers (DIDs) in more than 45 countries and more than 1,500 cities.
Using this system, a company can establish a local number in a foreign city. Calls to that number are ported into the Virtual PBX back in the States. The present alternative is to have a call to the overseas office forwarded by the local phone company, in which case international calling rates apply.
Besides cutting costs, the use of local numbers should enhance usability, said Virtual PBX Vice President of Sales and Support John Coyle. By landing the in the PBX, calls are treated to the usual PBX features.
"For a caller in London, maybe they know Scotts extension on the system, but Scott is not in London. Maybe he is in California or Florence: But for the caller, for all intents and purposes, they think that company lives in London," Coyle said.
Forwarded calls from abroad may run into a logjam situation, Coyle noted. Treated as ordinary calls, they may encounter a system that can only handle one call at a time, with subsequent calls encountering a busy signal. A PBX on the other hand candle handle multiple incoming calls at one time, giving callers the further impression that they are reaching the company directly, regardless of their own location.
Beyond cost savings and convenience, Coyle said, a PBX-based solution can help a company establish itself quickly and affordably in a new foreign market. "For customers expanding into international markets, you can have a London based phone number that your local customers in London can call, and people will think you have a London offices," he said.
In this scenario, its possible to establish that London footprint even before going to bricks and mortar."Maybe your employees dont even sit in London, but the caller does not know that. They are still dialing that local number," he said.
By porting calls to a PBX, enterprise users also get the convenience of sophisticated reporting. "You are dialing into a phone system with one or 1,000 extensions on it, and it is all on one invoice," Coyle said. At the end of the month, "I can see how many calls came into my U.S. phone number separately from my U.K. phone numbers, separately from my Florence phone number, and so on." Executives can see all this in an automated report, rather than asking managers to rely on caller I.D. for record-keeping.
Nailing down the right to issue phone numbers in 45 countries may sound like a Herculean effort. In fact, Coyle said, the breakdown of telecom providers makes the task considerably less daunting. "Youre not actually dealing with 45 separate countries. Its not like we have 45 contracts. It may just boil down to a smattering of carriers who help us get those numbers in those countries," he said.
To market its new international offering, Virtual PBX will begin with its U.S. client base, targeting those already active in the overseas calling market. "We do have a lot of customers based in the U.S. that have European offices and now we can hopefully save them a ton of money," Coyle said.
As that effort unfolds, the company will begin to expand its marketing overseas, reaching out to European countries look to expand their own overseas presence. Coyle said the company has already received queries from British and German firms.
With the ability to assign international numbers, Coyle said, Virtual PBX hopes to erase some of the economic stumbling blocks that hinder international telecom. "Its making the world very small," he said.
In announcing the new international offering, Virtual PBX also unveiled a new Virtual PBX Affiliate Program. Through the program, partner companies can earn up to $50 per lead when they refer companies to Virtual PBX, so long as those newcomers remain customers for 30 days.