What’s Beyond Phone Numbers?

My good friend Jason Harris wrote today about how some people believe phone numbers are archaic and a thing of the past. Some people believe that with instant messenger (IM), BBM and soon iMessage there is no need for phone numbers any longer. Others believe telco’s should just provide a big fat dumb pipe and we should all just use VOIP for phone calls. I thought I would talk about this a little. Jason brings up some good points and ultimately we agree that phone numbers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I believe that phone numbers could become a lot more relevant for people like myself. I travel abroad at least 1-3 times a year and some friends I have spend a great deal of time on the road in their home countries and abroad. I personally usually purchase a local sim card wherever I go and then have a good data/minute plan as well as a local number. I have some friends that never do that, they land in London from the US and just go about business, just cutting down on web surfing and downloading and uploading pictures. But she keeps her US number and everyone already has it. This is really useful for some mobile services that rely on using ur number to interact with you.

If the big telcos around the world could get their act together for the consumer, though it won’t help them, they could get roaming rates to a more reasonable price. This would make it easier for people like me to keep our current sims and not change it up in ever country I visit.

On the other hand there are companies like MaxRoam and Truphone who offer you 1 number to start with and you can add more for any country you want but you keep 1 sim and know what rates you will be paying.

Next option would be to use 1 single international number using something like iNum where you get a local number to everywhere in the world. It’s a great idea but it hasn’t really caught on like the players involved would have hoped. I personally hope it takes off but only time will tell.

Lastly, as I see it, you can use a service like Phone.com in combination with a MaxRoam sim or local sim to each country. In this case you can give out your 1 number or get numbers for any or all countries you want. I personally have been using this option forwarding my 1 Phone.com number to the sim cards I get in each country.

There are so many options but at this point it seems like phone numbers are still the key factor in voice communication. People will keep using their phone number to connect with others. My suggestion to companies trying to become the medium for communications is that they allow consumers to use their services with multiple phone numbers from multiple countries. At this point my Phone.com account forwards my calls to a Spanish sim, a British sim and an Israeli sim besides my IP phone on my desk and my personal cell phone. This is key in that it can forward to any number of numbers all at once.

What do you think? What is your take on the “phone number”? Is it dead?