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 Number. UIFN service allows businesses to advertise a single number that can be reached from multiple countries. Like ITFS, calls made to a UIFN are toll free for the caller.
AVOXI has provided global virtual numbers for over 15 years. We've installed over 27,000 numbers for contact centers across 6 continents and we get this question A LOT. So today we'll help establish some understanding around the differences between these services and how they work for you. Let's get into it.
Why Doesn't Every Company Use a UIFN?
If a UIFN is a just an international toll free number that can be reached from many countries, why do we even bother selling ITFS? While it is a great idea in principle, in practice it does have some drawbacks. Some issues we’ve seen our UIFN customers face include:
UIFN service is regulated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). These numbers can only be accessed from countries included in the UIFN program. Today, about 50 countries participate in the UIFN program, while ITFS is available in 140+ countries worldwide. View the full list of UIFN countries.
Formatting and Restrictions
To call a UIFN number, the caller must first dial their country’s international access code (IAC), more commonly known as the international dial-code or international country code. This means the UIFN format includes the country’s dial-code, the 800 prefix, and eight digits. Callers in many countries are not familiar with this format, making advertising more complicated. In addition, some countries impose restrictions on UIFN numbers that ITFS is not subject to. For example:
- In New Zealand, callers can dial ITFS numbers from all mobile phone networks while UIFN numbers can only be dialed from Telecom New Zealand and Vodaphone’s mobile networks.
- In the Netherlands, UIFN accessibility is not required by law, and some phone providers do not honor the standard.
- In Taiwan, hotels must allow guests to dial ITFS numbers from the hotel. They are not required to provide UIFN access.
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 ITU. The ITU charges each UIFN provider between 200 – 300 Swiss francs (about 200 – 300 USD) to set up a UIFN number, plus another annual maintenance fee. In addition, you must pay a monthly subscription fee for each country you wish to include in your UIFN coverage. In many scenarios, setting up ITFS in the countries you are targeting is a lower cost alternative.
The UIFN format consists of the IAC, 800, and eight unique digits. Let’s look at some UIFN examples. The UK’s IAC is +00, so a UK caller connecting to a UIFN would dial +00-800-xxxx-xxxx. Other examples include:
- Australia: +0011 (IAC) – 800 (UIFN prefix) – xxxx-xxxx (UIFN)
- Argentina: +00 (IAC) – 800 (UIFN prefix) – xxxx-xxxx (UIFN)
- Finland: +990 (IAC) – 800 (UIFN prefix) – xxxx-xxxx (UIFN)
- Canada: +011 (IAC) – 800 (UIFN prefix) – xxxx-xxxx (UIFN)
UIFN or ITFS - Which is Right for You?
So here’s the advice we give to our customers.
If you only need toll-free access from one or two countries, always use an ITFS number and save yourself the registration fee. If you are displaying the numbers on your corporate website and can provide a drop-down box for countries and corresponding toll free numbers, ITFS still makes a lot of sense. If you are paying for advertising with high-cost “real estate” and you are short on space for the numbers, it may make sense to go with one UIFN number for specific campaigns.
Some of our use-cases of UIFN service include:
- Medical Research Companies: Specifically, researchers that conduct medical studies and wanted each research team to be able to call into the same number structure globally.
- Clinical Rehab and Patient Care: Centers that set up a UIFN as a helpline and for family members to call-in to patients.
- Data Centers and Software Services: We provide UIFN service for one of the largest data center companies in the world. They use a UIFN as a global service/support line across multiple centers.
- Universities: A UIFN allows universities to have the same call in number around the world for remote campuses and desktop support.
While there is no true “universal” toll free number that works the same way in many countries. But with our experience, we are confident there is a solution to your international calling needs. If you have questions or want to learn more about virtual number services around the world, please reach out to our team today!
Call AVOXI from
US/Canada: 1 800 394 1980
United Kingdom: 0800 652 5029
Hong Kong: +852 30114974
Australia: 1 800 834558
Worldwide: +1 (770) 937-9735
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