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Mobile phones have been with us for more than 40 years, and these days the mobile is a vital business tool. Over the years apps have shaped and reshaped how we communicate via text and images, and social platforms have come and gone, but mobile phone numbers have remained remarkably static.

Mobile operators stuck in the 1970s

A small number of handsets will support more than one SIM, and that’s a phone makers’ innovation. Operators’ lack of foresight and innovation leaves most of us with the same one phone, one phone number situation that owners of the first mobiles had when they first appeared back in the 1970s.

That’s remarkably unsupportive of modern lifestyles and a sign of a real lack of imagination on the part of operators. It simply doesn’t reflect how people use their phones to communicate these days.

We use different social profiles and different email addresses to manage the personas we create for personal life, work life, selling stuff online, social media sites, or even dating. But when it comes to phone numbers mobile operators seem stuck in a ‘one size fits all’ rut that is inconvenient and frustrating at best, insecure and expensive at worst.

The dangers of one number

For a business user, calls can be considered phone spam when work calls come through when you are not working, or personal calls reach you when you’re at the office because your phone is switched on and so you are available. Not to mention the spam that can originate because you used your mobile number to sign up to a web site and it’s been sold on.

Then there’s the issue of the cost of calls. Imagine the uproar if we were charged extras for surfing a US website or sending an email to France. Yet mobile operators can charge us more for calling abroad or when we travel abroad. In today’s seamless, ubiquitous world, this concept goes against the grain.

It really is time the ‘one size fits all’ rut of one number per mobile was banished, so that mobile phone owners can reclaim both control and security.

Innovation is happening

Thanks to new apps people can have up to four additional mobile numbers on one handset. Numbers can be turned on and off independently, and each can have its own voicemail greeting, So, you can have a work number which you turn off when you are not at work, and a separate private number. The other numbers can be used to fit your lifestyle. Maybe you want a number for Gumtree, or a number for the dating app you’re using, for example. Because numbers can be deleted when they’re no longer needed you can use a number short term and avoid associated longer term spam.

These apps also get over that problem of excessive charges for international calls too. You can use international numbers on your existing handset, so that you can be contacted “locally" from any of these countries without being there. Business travellers, holidaymakers and ex-pats can all benefit.

And there’s plenty for people don’t always use voice to communicate, with the ability to send photos or audio clips for free.

All this can mean significant benefits for businesses which are keen to encourage employees to use a mobile for work but find they’re not happy about carrying two handsets or giving out their home number for work use. Innovation in voice is happening – but maybe not from your operator.

By Mark Egginton, CEO of Vyke