May 15, 2007

AllFreeCalls Rising up as Yak4Ever

A couple of months back, a few incumbents took a procedural action that effectively shut down many “free” long distance providers who took advantage of an arbitrage condition. One of them was Now they are back with a more restrictive (legally and not as a practical matter) service that is nonetheless just as “free”. Apparently it is a (clever?) legalistic solution, but my interest here is to suggest some improvements in the user experience that they can make within the confines of the legal straitjacket.

The arbitrage condition arises because certain rural telephone service providers are given a high termination charges to complete calls to their subscribers compared to the current rates to originate calls to a large group of countries. The incumbents argued that the calls really did not terminate at the rural service providers, but really terminated at those foreign countries. Against this background, the renamed Yak4Ever requests its customers to identify a small number of parties that they frequently call and identify them using a short code (they call it “extension number”) to identify the real end-point of the call. I surmise that this gives them the required legal loophole, since legally the call gets terminated on the “line side” in the rural carrier and then it so happens that the call is routed “internally” (just like a PBX will do) and it so happens that the routing then finally terminates in the PSTN world some other place.

Currently Y4E allows a user to register up to 10 numbers and each number is assigned an extension number. I would find it difficult to remember the specific extension number if I have designated more than a handful of phone numbers. So I think it will be nice if they allow me to select an extension number that is a mnemonic, with “#” to designate end of string character.

As a next step, it will be nice if I can add/update a number to this pool in real time (currently it looks like it has to be done at the time subscription). I am not sure whether the static nature of the pool is a legal requirement or not. If it is not, then it will be nice if I can designate the 10th extension for temporary use and populate the phone number by sending a SMS.

In any event, good luck to them.

Update: Just now I received a confirmation email from Y4E of my registration. That email indicates that one has to dial the end-of-digit "#" after dialing the extension number. This suggests that the digit analysis logic is already designed to handle variable number of digits for the extension number. Thus technically they can handle mnemonics for extension. The only question is whether that will still keep them within the legal boundaries.

By the way, the confirmation mail didn't include the list of numbers and the extension number assigned to them. So you need to note down this mapping.

Update 2: At Pat's urging, I re-registered and received a confirmation mail noting my number and the phone numbers and the corresponding extensions of my friends. Apparently the confirmation mail for the previous registration must have been caught in the SPAM filter.

Posted by aswath at May 15, 2007 03:31 PM
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Thanks for the mention.
Its not an ideal situation but it is the best we could do to pass legals, we send out an email with the extension numbers and then access numbers as a reminder list.
We are working on allowing people access to change their pool of numbers. Thanks again.

Posted by: Pat Phelan at May 16, 2007 01:52 AM

Hi Aswath
I can confirm that when a user signs up their home number and ten destination numbers they do receive an email with all of these on it with the extension number next to each.

Posted by: Pat Phelan at May 16, 2007 11:50 AM

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