Virtual telephone numbers are available for purchase in many countries around the world – but not available in many others. For instance, virtual numbers are not allowed in India as of this writing.In general, countries that restrict use of virtual numbers are also countries that regulate use of VoIP internet telephony – and, usually, telecom markets in general.In such countries, governments are typically trying to nuture incumbent telephone companies and protect them from low-cost competitors, especially from low-cost VoIP companies.
Virtual numbers are used to forward incoming calls to another location – usually in another part of the country or in another country altogether Generally, the incoming calls to the virtual number are forwarded to their destination via VoIP internet calling technology. Given that VoIP telephony is much less expensive than traditional telephony, this allows either the inbound caller or the virtual number subscriber or both to reduce calling costs.
To be clear, virtual numbers can be forwarded over traditional telephone networks, too – but it will cost more.
Unlike normal phone numbers, virtual telephone numbers generally do not have an actual physical landline or mobile phone assigned to them. Meaning that they don’t actually ring anywhere.
Instead, virtual phone numbers are used as a mechanism to get the incoming call onto the telephone network – sort of like an entry ramp onto a roadway. Once ‘received’, the calls are then immediately routed forward to the end destination telephone.
Virtual telephone numbers can be forwarded to any type of end destination phone number – a mobile phone, a landline phone, a VoIP phone number, a fax machine, etc. The end destination number can be domestic or overseas.
Typically, the destination number can be easily designated using an account management interface. The subscriber simply specifies what end destination number they want to use – whether for a few hours or forever.
Assuming they are available, virtual phone numbers work much like a regular landline or toll-free phone number in terms of billing and payment. You subscribe to the service and then pay a monthly fee. The exact cost is determined by the provider, the calling plan you select, and the rates to the destination number, among other factors.