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Watch Toll Free Numbers Change due to Skype/Lync and WebRTC.

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If you remember ever asking "do you have a toll free number" or if you have ever dialed one, you always were thinking how calling that number saved you money, and maybe realized that the cost was being paid for by the receiving party. Most times the number called was for some type of service, support or reservation.

With unlimited long distance, 800 numbers sorta for many became irrelevant, and with mobile calling plans really being unlimited in nature, the need was sort of also reduced as people stopped paying for minutes, with one exception. The party on the receiving end of an 800 number.

Last week in London, uber-analyst Dean Bubley and I had one of our regular get togethers over a cocktail, some food and conversation where we chat without an agenda and let stream of consciousness and relevance become the compass. As we chatted we got onto the topic of both WebRTC and Skype and how the 800 toll free market was a common target for both.

Dean quickly pointed out something that has been in the back of my mind, the upcoming Skype/Lync integration, and how instead of advertising toll free 800 numbers, or usually being regional in nature, how the presenters of toll free numbers could start presenting SKYPE ID's as with Lync, the interconnection into the "PBX" in the call center occurs. Then we switched to talking about the same implications of WebRTC and how this all occurs in the browser. 

If you think about it, already inside the browser we get pop ups asking for a chat if we are filling out forms, struggling with a reservation, or making a transaction that seems to be taking longer or is being rejected.

Both Skype and WebRTC would work to remove the barriers of geography, further driving more call centers in more places, but with call transfer ability for both Lync and WebRTC - once it interconnects to the PBX, means more expertise available. The current path of WebRTC is richer than what we have seen so far from Microsoft, but I don't think their not thinking about the on screen, in browser experience. Quite the opposite, I feel that they are, and that we'll see more screen sharing, on screen video calling with remote support and collaboration from them, all within the browser as Skype partially migrates from an installed app to a Web app and has that Lync connection going.

But if one thinks about this, and as Dean and I discussed, this is also where Google has a running start, as the Android OS is already seeing beta builds of WebRTC inside Chrome, and since it will be natively available on Android devices that operate on both Wi-Fi and LTE, this means in many situations, "calling for support" doesn't have to mean dialing up over the PSTN any longer. Conversely, Microsoft and it's Windows Mobile is going nowhere fast.

But the more one looks at it, the more one sees WebRTC and Skype as having all the potential of being a massive disruptor to the toll free and call center markets, so it's no wonder why the telcos are both looking at WebRTC (Telefonica buying TokBox, Ericsson fueling AT&T's Foundry, etc.) and trying to manage its deployment. 

-- Andy Abramson


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