Aswath who regularly posts comments to the VoIPWatch blog and emails me from time to time has an interesting perspective and has done some fact finding out about the new Virtual numbers via VoIP that are popping up all over the place.
First, I don't think the market is as global as it is local and regional. In US markets like New York City, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area and just about anywhere there are multiple area codes the idea of being able to eliminate the local RBOC with VoIP is very appealing. If you think about the contractor trades (electricians, plumbers, carpet cleaners, roofers, carpenters, air conditioning repair, etc.) they all have 800 numbers or to appear more local than they are, numbers that are from each community they want to serve. Sure they're in the low tech world, but they've also been pioneers with pagers, cell phones, 2 way radios, Nextel.
If they add in VoIP with virtual numbering they cut their costs for numbers that they currently pay boatloads of money for, either for the 800 service or the mileage charge for an out of area number. VoIP also gives them the flexability to ring multiple numbers so imagine all the contractors out in the field getting the calls routed to the one on call that day after hours. Or imagine multiple "receptionists" being available during different day parts to field calls, all administered via the web browser, or even
better, preprogrammed in advance for which attendant is fielding the calls when.
There is a huge market for this type of thing, and the companies offering the Virtual numbers know it. Now they need to put the technology behind it, beyond simply allowing me to be called by dialing a number located somewhere else.