Apr 11, 2012

[Google] Why The Philippines Still Doesn't Have Google Voice

Image representing Google Voice as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase
I'm a big Google fan - that much is clear. The fact that I host this blog via Blogger instead of another service like WordPress, how I remain active on Google+ and how so much of my online life involves one Google product or another, things just get crazy that way, I suppose. And can you blame me, beyond being one of the most admired companies in the world, they do come up with a lot of cool products that are highly useful.

One major point of annoyance for me is how Google users in the Philippines (obviously including myself) still do not have access to the full host of features of Google Voice. It's a pretty amazing service once you read about it and it provides a lot of different cool features and other bonuses that make it a no-brainer to want to have. But the basic requirement to have the service is to have a US phone number. Ouchies.

In fact the world outside of the United States still does not have access to the service as a whole, unless you decide to go out of your way to acquire a US phone number via some online service or VOIP device. And that seems like going a bit too much out of the way just to play with a service that works best when you have multiple phones that you want to manage.

So let's take a quick look at the main reasons why we Filipinos can't "officially" have access to Google Voice yet.

First, a quick backgrounder on why I feel I can discuss this, other than the fact that I'm your Geeky Guide. The bulk of my real life experience involves working in the call center industry - in fact by June I'll be celebrating my ninth year of employment with my company. And in my time in the industry, the bulk of my experience has been with US telecommunications account - first as an agent and later on as a trainer for many years. So yeah, you tend to pick things up including an above average understanding of the US telecommunications industry, after which our own telephone companies seem to have patterned their processes after.

And thus Google Voice has to play by a lot of the same rules in terms of the US market - and thus the same limitations.

And to be clear, Google Voice refers to a lot of things. At its most basic, when you make phone calls via the Google Talk desktop application or directly through Gmail, this is all Google Voice.
Google Voice muy pronto!
Photo credit: marcopako 
We start with the fundamentals - the need for a US phone number. Telephone numbers are allocated based on something known as the North American Numbering Plan - basically the system that defines which area code goes where and why everyone has 7-digit phone numbers. But a company can't just magically create numbers on their own - there are allocations made behind the scenes so that AT&T won't end up selling the exact same phone number as a Verizon customer is getting. Everyone has their share of numbers, thus there are no duplications.

So imagine trying to play the same game with all the different countries out there and making sure Google Voice has enough phone numbers in their system to support all the different customers around the world. The possibilities are rather staggering. Even just providing sufficient US phone numbers to an international market base is not something that anyone can easily do - and especially not for free.

And don't get me started on the option for number porting - referring to the option to transfer your existing phone number over to Google Voice. That's a whole different bag of chips.

Then we get to international phone rates, since Google Voice does route calls to all you different numbers and thus saving you the hassle of a lot of call forwarding (and potential long distance rates). And it's not like the rates are unilaterally decided by Google - long distance rates consist of the charges for both the point of origin and the point of termination. Thus Google has costs to start the call and carry it across the ocean and then the local phone companies in the target country have their own rates and charges for receiving the call. 

Google Voice
Google Voice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And interesting example of this is how calls from the US to Mexico are subject to multiple calling rate bands (if I remember right Mexico had 8), so calls to Mexico consisted of the long distance charges to get the call from the caller to the border and then from the US border to the specific area of Mexico. And the further south you'd go, the higher the rate. Apply that on a grander international scale, and you should get the bigger picture.

And the Philippines is not known for being  a cheap country to work with. We have some of the highest electricity rates in the region and our phone companies aren't that much friendlier either. It's a small miracle that Google Voice rates to Philippine landlines are still cheaper than our own National Direct Dial rates through our local phone carriers. Insane I tell you. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

These are just some of the fundamental issues we face and probably why Google continues to limit the Google voice service to the US for now. Perhaps in the future there will be greater options for us to improve global telecommunications processes, practices and agreements. 

But for now we just have to deal with the fact that life is a pain, especially in the telecommunications world.
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  1. I know this is totally off topic...but you have got to get yourself an Android phone already! Then I can read about your reviews about good Android apps!

  2. I know, I know! But I hate touchscreens...

  3. Booooooooo! Get with the times, grandpa! Hahaha. Really! Geekyguide needs App reviews! :)

  4. Ha, your insults do not affect me since clearly your interests are overly self-serving. =P