The absurdity of the phone system
One thing that mobile phones and Voice over IP is doing is turning the phone system on it’s ear. With mobile phones (particularly GSM), it’s possible to call a number that, by area code and prefix, is located in Seattle. However, that physical person might be in, say, Singapore, or London. Of course, that person might pay some pretty heafty charges to receive calls in those locations (international roaming charges are a bit expensive!).
As another example with my Voice over IP, I am based in the Seattle area and I had one of my co-workers from California call me on what was to them a local number. Was that a traditional landline or mobile number forwarded up to Seattle? Could have been, but it was a second number directly associated with my Broadvox Direct? VoIP account (the primary number being more local to my area). And because the device that provides Voice over IP dialtone can be anywhere I’ve got Internet connectivity, I could literally be anywhere in the world and receive “local” phone calls from around my house in Seattle or from the Silicon Valley. Unlike with mobile phones, “global roaming” with Voice over IP is free, except for what you might pay to get an Internet connection.
Country/area/city codes were constructed at a time when there was only landline-type phones available. They are, by design, geographic in nature. Mobile phones and Voice over IP phones are kind of the square pegs in the round “country/area/city code” holes. In many countries outside the US, mobile phones are actually given their own city-type code so at least within that country, you know you’re dialing a mobile phone. If someone dials you internationally, all bets are off. For some reason, a mobile-phone specific area code within the US isn’t allowed.
The most absurd thing regarding mobile phones, at least, is paying to receive calls. I realize that in most civilized countries outside the US, they implement a “calling party pays” system on both the mobile and landline networks. Even if you have a mobile phone based in one of those countrues, the minute you leave that country, you’re going to be paying roaming charges to receive calls. It’s even worse in the following situation: Person A is from the UK and person B is from the US. Person A is currently visiting Person B in the US. Person B needs to call Person A’s mobile for one reason or another. Person B makes an International call to call his friend, who might be but a mile or two away. Both pay international charges (one to make the call, the other to receive the call while roaming).
What we really need is to do away with area codes and country codes and implement a non-geographical country code like +87810 (this code was designated as the Internet’s country code) along with ENUM. Or just ditch the PSTN altogether and use Free World Dialup, which hands out non-geographic numbers…