Creating a Central Registry to Support Toll-Free Texting and Other Smart Services

Member companies of CTIA – The Wireless Association are in the process of amending SMS Interoperability Guidelines to establish industry-wide rules for texting to Toll-Free Numbers, also referred to as 8XX numbers by the CTIA.   While elaborating on the provisioning and routing process with the industry, the working group of CTIA member companies identified the need for a single, authoritative data source of text enabled Toll-Free Numbers.

Toll-Free has evolved to a corporate identity solution, providing legitimacy and credibility to corporations and businesses across North America.

The CTIA working group recommended that Somos provide the authoritative registry for Toll-Free Numbers across all usage types (e.g., voice, texting and future smart services).  We agree with the recommendation and propose to create a central registry for the usage of Toll-Free Numbers for voice, texting and other future smart services. 

We agree that the integrity of Toll-Free Numbers is of paramount importance.  In this whitepaper, we propose a solution for enabling Toll-Free Numbers for texting and other future smart services.

Background & Introduction 

Toll-Free services were first introduced by AT&T as a subscriber-paid voice service.  Businesses were able to give consumers a way to reach them without having to pay the toll for a call. 

To provide Toll-Free services, corporations, businesses, and individuals work with a responsible organization (Resp Org) to obtain a nongeographic Toll-Free Number.  When a service provider receives a Toll-Free call, the call is routed to a specified number.  Service providers bill the called party for the cost of the call instead of the calling party. 

The administration and management of toll-free numbers in North America are performed by Somos.

Evolving Role of Toll-Free

Toll-Free Numbers were originally introduced as a cost-free mechanism for subscribers, enabling the called party to be responsible for toll charges.  Over the past decade, the usage of Toll-Free Numbers has evolved beyond basic free calling services by providing the following benefits to businesses:   

  • Toll-Free Numbers are the trusted connection between business and consumers: Most corporations and businesses use Toll-Free Numbers to engage with consumers and conduct business.
  • Toll-Free Numbers provide legitimacy and credibility to businesses:  Consumers associate calls made to and received from Toll-Free Numbers as associated with a reputable, trusted source.
  • Toll-Free Numbers are intregral to branding and marketing activities: Toll-Free Numbers are commonly used as significant tools in branding and marketing campaigns of businesses. Further, the use of vanity numbers is often used to define brand and identity (e.g.,1- 800-FLOWERS).
  • Toll-Free Numbers are non-geographic: Corporations use Toll-Free Numbers to provide one number to reach departments that may be geographically distributed or to provide flexibility in location of services or operations (i.e., a change in the provision of such does not necessitate a change in number).   
  • Location aware routing personalizes localized service delivery:  Corporations leverage Toll-Free Numbers to provide local services relevant to consumers’ home market (e.g., a national pizza delivery chain can use a single Toll-Free Numbers nationwide but route ordering calls to the customer’s nearest retail location).
  • Shared numbers allow for consumer ease of use:  Toll-Free Numbers allow for number sharing.  Businesses in the same line of service share one vanity number that is easy to remember.  Incoming calls are routed to the service provider nearest to the caller.
  • Reports and analytics on Toll-Free Numbers provide corporations with insight to their businesses:  Detailed call records, patterns and trends allow businesses to gain better insight into call volumes, trends and patterns.
  • Toll-Free allows for advanced call management: Calls for Toll-Free Numbers can be configured to be functional only in desired regions based on caller.  This configuration can be changed on demand.
  • Citizens associate Toll-Free Numbers with public safety, national security and emergency preparedness: The first response of citizens is to instinctively look for a Toll-Free Numbers when faced with a public safety or national security situation. 
  • Toll-Free Numbers have evolved to provide various value added services beyond cost free calling over the years. 

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