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Customers often ask, “What makes more sense for my business, a UIFN number or an ITFS number and what’s the difference?”

ITFS stands for International Toll Free Service. An ITFS number is the international equivalent of a US Toll Free number in that it allows a customer to call a business and have the business pay for the call. With ITFS, your customers in one country can make toll free calls that can then be terminated in another country. The numbers vary country by country.

UIFN is an acronym for Universal Free Phone service whereby businesses can advertise a single number that can be accessed from multiple countries.

Which number makes more sense really depends on each customer’s needs. While the UIFN number is a great idea in principle, in practice it does have some drawbacks.

  • UIFN numbers are not available from as many countries as ITFS numbers.
  • In some countries where UIFN is available, there are restrictions that are not imposed with ITFS numbers. As examples:
    • In New Zealand, ITFS numbers can be dialed from all mobile phone networks while UIFN numbers can only be dialed from Telecom New Zealand and Vodaphone’s mobile networks.
    • In Taiwan, hotels must allow guests to dial ITFS numbers from the hotel but they are not required to provide UIFN access to their guests.
  • UIFN has a one-time universal registration fee which is not required with ITFS numbers where the registration fee is paid by the carrier to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
  • Customers are generally more comfortable calling ITFS numbers, because they recognize them as toll free.  Some UIFN numbers are not as familiar or easily recognizable.
  • Probably the most important difference is that with UIFN numbers different dialing prefixes are required from different parts of the world and some are counterintuitive.

UIFN numbers consist of a prefix then 800 then 8 digits. An example would be the UK which has a prefix of 00 so a UIFN number as dialed from the UK would be 00 800 XXXX XXXX. Other prefixes include Australia - 0011, Argentina - 00, Finland - 990, and Canada - 011. So here’s the advice we give to our customers...

If you only need toll-free access from one country, use an ITFS number and save yourself the universal registration fee. If you are displaying the numbers on your corporate web site and can provide a drop down box for countries and corresponding toll free numbers, it still might make sense to go with the ITFS. However, if you are paying for advertising and the “real estate” is at a premium, it may make sense to go with one UIFN number, especially if you are advertising to a large number of countries.

There really is no “one size fits all” answer, but with careful consideration companies can select the option that best meets their and enjoy the many advantages of international toll free services - ITFS or UIFN.