Ever since Responsible Organizations (Resp Orgs) were first established almost 25 years ago, they have managed Toll-Free Numbers so that companies and non-profits can use them to grow their business. We sat down with Christophe Adrien, the Director of Business Development at ATL Communications, the first independent, carrier neutral Resp Org in the United States. Known for least cost routing and multi-carrier routing, ATL provisions Toll-Free Numbers (TFNs) in a way that gives businesses an advantage when it comes to avoiding outages and gathering valuable data.
Who is ATL Communications?
ATL Communications has been around since 1993. We are the oldest independent Resp Org in the country. We were around at the very beginning when Resp Orgs were first created.
How many TFNs do you manage?
We manage around two million Toll-Free Numbers—that number fluctuates depending on which of our clients are moving numbers in and out.
What sets you apart from other Resp Orgs?
One of the things we’re known for is number porting. We have the fastest port times in the industry and follow the FCC tariff closely. What we are most known for is our administrative efficiency. Our clients range in size from single number subscribers to carriers with hundreds of thousands of numbers. We handle all the needs of our clients relating to interfacing with the SMS/800 Toll-Free Number (TFN) Registry, and they have come to rely on our expertise to solve wide ranges of problems.
What is multi-carrier routing and what value does it deliver?
Multi-carrier routing involves allowing one Toll-Free Number to make use of multiple carriers simultaneously. As an independent Resp Org, we don’t care about minutes, but we’ve formed relationships with most carriers in the country to allow us to route on their networks. That allows us to point Toll-Free Numbers to the carrier of our clients’ choosing by creating routing templates that can split routing between more than one carrier. The complexity of each template depends on what our clients’ needs are.
Multi-carrier routing is a major value add for our clients, and it’s something that doesn’t exist with local numbers. We can set up a routing scenario, so that if one carrier has an outage, we can go to that template and route all traffic to the back-up carrier, giving our clients as close to 100% uptime as it is possible in this industry.
We just deployed our customer portal in April which allows our customers to initiate a disaster recovery scenario at the click of a button so that they can move their Toll-Free traffic in the event of an outage. We are moving away from requiring manual intervention, however, our customers can still call in or email us to make the change.
Reliable data on outages has not been available until recently. But what we do know is that there are frequent regional outages. They are usually small and have short durations, so if we have a client who experiences one of those, it’s just a question of switching over the traffic to another carrier. In terms of large, complete outages, that does not happen very often. But in such cases, our clients are switched over within 15 minutes. We hope those outages don’t increase in scope over the next few years. There is a concern with an all IP network that some of the largest carriers may start to experience outages.
What is least cost routing and what value does it deliver?
Least cost routing is a fairly simple concept. It’s taking a client’s record of all their minutes, their average duration, and where the call came from, and then putting all that together in a template so that every time a call is placed to a Toll-Free Number, it will be routed to the least expensive carrier for that call.
The new movement toward rate parity will impact least cost routing insofar as the cost savings will no longer be a factor. Instead, carriers will be competing for rates based on delivering for the network. Rate parity will impact the effectiveness of least cost routing, if not entirely replace it in the future.
What is your take on texting over a TFN? How will this change brand communication and the Toll-Free industry?
In concept, it’s a great idea. It’s true that for younger generations it makes perfect sense, since they prefer to text. There are some issues, however, since it’s too easy to activate Toll-Free texting on numbers that don’t belong to you. The owner of ATL actually testified on these issues at the FCC, and there are problems on the regulatory side that need to be ironed out.
Once the issues are resolved, that’s going to be the next step for Toll-Free Numbers. Currently, we don’t offer text enabling of Toll-Free Numbers, but we do have a vetted list of companies that can activate it for our customers. We are, however, currently developing our own text-enabling product, which should be available to our clients in the next year.
What is the value of Toll-Free Numbers to your customers?
First among the values of Toll-Free is business legitimacy. Toll-Free Numbers are a recognized tool for marketing and branding and lend legitimacy to companies who use them. Second among the values of Toll-Free is caller ID. In the age of big data, having access to who is calling into a business is a huge value. Third, but not least, among the values of Toll-Free Numbers is multi-carrier routing. Multi-carrier routing allows end users to protect their numbers from carrier outages by utilizing two or more carriers simultaneously.
To learn more about ATL Communications, visit their website or call 1.800.PORTING.