A virtual number, also known as DID or access number, is a telephone number without a directly associated telephone line. Usually these numbers are programmed to forward incoming calls to one of the pre-set telephone numbers chosen by the client; either Fixed, Mobile or VoIP. A virtual number can work like a gateway between traditional calls (PSTN) and VOIP.
Subscribers to virtual numbers may use their existing phones, without the need to purchase additional hardware.
A Virtual Private Number is a telephone number that forwards incoming calls to any of a number of pre-set telephone numbers. These are also called a follow-me number, a virtual telephone number or (in the UK) Personal Number.
Usually a virtual telephone number can be set to forward calls to different telephone numbers depending on the time of day and the day of the week; for example, between 9-5 on working days incoming calls will be forwarded to one's workplace, but in the weekends to one's cellphone.
The availability (and acceptable use) of Virtual Phone Numbers is subject to the regulatory situation in the issuing country.
Applications/Example of use
- Businesses - Thus a company located in China can have a phone number in Los Angeles or London without paying for a fixed Foreign exchange line. Virtual Numbers are very popular among call centers which appear to be located in one country, when in fact they are in one or more countries in different time zone, delivering efficient 24/7 cover.
- Individuals - Other popular users of international virtual numbers are migrants and travelers, who appreciate the fact that their friends and family back home can contact them using a local call.
- Specific businesses - Calling cards or callback. Virtual numbers work like access numbers, e.g., the phone number that (calling cards)/callback's user has to dial to make the call/(use callback).
- Marketing - Some companies will use virtual numbers for various marketing campaigns, or different media channels, this allows them to track which campaign or medium brings what kind of traffic.
- Virtual Services - Various providers of virtual business services (virtual address, virtual receptionist, virtual office) will use a virtual number to tie in their other virtual services together into one seamless solution. This allows their customers to have a phone, address and voice presence almost anywhere in the world.
Most voice over IP providers offer virtual numbers; unbundled providers label these as "DIDs" (direct inward dial). These are typically offered as local geographic numbers in various selected cities or as toll-free numbers, with the non-geographic number carrying higher per-minute cost to receive calls.
- Follow-me, the same concept for PBXs
- Unified Messaging
- Universal Personal Telecommunications
- Davinci Virtual - Virtual business service provider
- Ofcom (2009-02-27). "Personal Numbering - Guidance on the acceptable use of 070 numbers". Guidance on telephone numbering. Office of Communications. Retrieved 2011-11-26.