Toll-Free Calling Finally Enters the IP Era with TFX and Allstream Partnership

By Erik Linask February 01, 2021

Are toll-free numbers still relevant?  It’s a question many may ask, considering long-distance charges have gone the way of the rotary dial telephone.  The answer, simply, is yes.  Actually, businesses are buying and using toll-free numbers more than ever.  What used to be a single toll-free prefix (800), now includes 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, and 833 as well. 

Businesses see value in having what is effectively a North American area code, rather than a state area code.  Most importantly, they give businesses a nationwide presence.  It may be to give the perception of being a larger business, to compete more effectively in multiple geographies, to be able to leverage a single number for sales or customer service, or to be able to use vanity numbers.  In additon, with new geography-agnostic staffing and hiring practices that have emerged due to the pandemic, nationwide and North American area codes make even more sense.  There is real value in toll-free.  The fact that new prefixes are added every couple of years is evidence.

But, toll-free numbers haven’t offered the same simplicity and feature-richness as local numbers – until today. 

This morning, Toll-Free-Exchange (TFX) and Allstream have announced a partnership that significantly enhances the toll-free value proposition through a toll-free origination service for enterprise customers across Canada and the United States. 

The service leverages Allstream’s national feature group network, combined with the exclusive routing capabilities of the TFX IPX platform to deliver one-stop, one-step activation of inbound toll-free service.  The service uniquely leverages Resp Org IDs for routing, rather than traditional 10-digit numbers, simplifying management and routing and making it possible to cut out costly intermediate network connections that have that have traditionally added to toll-free costs.

Resp Orgs can quickly and easily receive competitive flat-rate pricing and one-step service delivery through a digital platform that auto-provisions in real time.  The service also eliminates the need for managing service beyond the initial setup, since calls routing is done using the Resp Org ID.

“Our platform makes it easy with a one-step activation process,” explained David Aldworth, president of TFX in an exclusive interview with TMC (News - Alert).  “If you have a Resp Org ID, you simply sign up and, if you don’t, we can give you one.”

That includes not only carriers, but larger enterprises and call centers as well.  There are several benefits, including cost savings for enterprises, revenue gains for carriers, time to market, and management simplicity, with TFX acting as the exchange and taking on provisioning, routing, billing, and management.

Bringing toll-free into the IP generation also enables enterprises to capitalize on other communications capabilities, including SMS and RCS, which have traditionally not been available with toll-free numbers.

“People tend to think that a call is a call and everything has transitioned to IP,” said Kerry Garrison, director of product marketing at Teliax (News - Alert).  “For the most part, that’s true, but toll-free is still so antiquated in how it’s routed.”

Now, when numbers port in or out, there is no need to update third-party systems.  Instead, the routing reflects the Resp Org and is updated in the Somos SMS/800 system instantly, reducing the complexity of dealing with multiple carriers and streamlines the processes service providers use to deliver toll-free to the enterprise.

It’s really a one-to-many peering exchange for toll-free traffic that, with a single SIP trunk to the TFX, can actually transform cost centers in the profit centers.  TFX is taking out the traditional middle men who charge a lot more for their connections, and is effectively becoming the new, more cost-effective middle man, while delivering a significantly enhanced service.

“A lot of money is spent on unnecessary network layers, but we put that back into the pockets of the people originating ad terminating traffic,” added Aldworth.  “We make sure it’s the most profitable route to take – you literally cannot lose money.”

Aldworth is also President of Teliax, the Colorado-based service provider that built the TFX platform.  Aldworth says the TFX is not intended as a revenue-generator for Teliax, rather a service that will enable carriers, including Teliax, to enjoy the platform’s benefits. 

“We took Kevin Costner’s ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy, patented the idea, and created TFX,” he said.  “It’s not meant to be a revenue business, but a benefit to all participating carriers.  To be fair, though, it takes early adopters with entrepreneurial spirit to understand this is the way it should be done.” 

Realistically, the writing was on the wall and this kind of toll-free peering platform was inevitable.  If Teliax didn’t build TFX, someone else would have and, today, in Allstream, TFX has its early adopter that is set to transform toll-free calling.  Initially launching in Canada, TFX hopes to expand to cover all of North America very shortly through additional feature group partnerships in the United States.

“Today is an exciting day in enterprise connectivity as our partnership with The Toll-Free Exchange greatly reduces costs and simplifies the management of Canada-originated toll-free services,” said Mike Strople, Allstream CEO.  “This partnership represents Allstream’s continued commitment to North American voice and data network and to adopt advanced next-generation digital capabilities.”

Edited by Erik Linask
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