South African voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) operator Switch Telecom is now able to provide local customers with telephone numbers reflecting the area codes of hundreds of cities in 60 countries worldwide.
This means that a call placed from anywhere in the world to a London number, for example, will not terminate in the UK but will, in fact, be routed to South Africa.
While it has been possible for South African VoIP customers to secure overseas VoIP numbers before, Switch Telecom's is now letting customers order overseas numbers and pay for them in rands rather than US dollars.
"Local companies will realise that overseas clients find a certain peace of mind dealing with what they imagine to be a supplier based in their own country," says Greg Massel, MD of Switch Telecom.
He adds that many South African companies would also enjoy the prestige factor involved in displaying international telephone numbers on corporate stationery.
"One of the primary markets for this new service will be South African contact centres pursuing lucrative offshore markets. Firstly, customers calling contact centres prefer to call numbers that look like they are based in the same country.
"Secondly, there has been a tremendous backlash against off-shoring in many countries. Now that much of the western world is in recession the idea of exporting jobs to developing countries is not exactly appealing," says Massel.
Overseas numbers can be integrated into Switch Telecom's value-added services and no special technical expertise is required to implement the overseas area code service. The cost to customers is typically around R100.00 per month per telephone number, depending on the cities required.
This latest VoIP development follows news last month that the prefix +27 87 made its first appearance after local VoIP providers concluded transit agreements with Telkom meaning South African VoIP telephone numbers could be dialled from overseas.
Overseas dialling was a key milestone for VoIP providers because it was the last major technical barrier preventing large scale business and consumer uptake of VoIP services as a complete replacement for fixed line telephony.
Other key barriers to VoIP uptake that have already been overcome include the ministerial determinations of September 2004 and the ability of VoIP operators to interconnect with each other as well as fixed and mobile network operators.
"All of these latest developments point towards VoIP coming of age and geography becoming less important in our new wireless world," concludes Massel.