Those convenient 1-800 business numbers that use a word instead of a series of
digits – to make it easier for you to remember the name of the business – are
frauds, says Assi Rotbart, one of the founders of Israeli start-up NTTM. “Those
names are really just phone numbers in disguise, meaning that only a few
companies will be able to afford and acquire one of those numbers.”
only that, he says, one of the biggest problems with the letter-to-number system
is the conflict between two companies whose phone numbers have digits that use
the same letters on the dial pad. Will the number 2 represent a company that
uses the letter A, B, or C? You’d be surprised at how many fistfights break out
over this at phone company conventions! A far better solution, says Rotbart, is
the one his company came up with: a solution noteworthy enough for Morpho, one
of the biggest makers of cellphone SIM cards, to adopt.
enables anyone to have a ‘name number,’ allowing others to dial them by
a letter, rather than a number, combination,” Rotbart says. “What’s
system is virtually unlimited, allowing anyone to adopt any user name
with spaces or symbols between the first and last name, for
Even better, he says, users can have multiple names or terms
ringing at the same number.
Businesses, for instance, can choose to
advertise names such as “Rose Flowers,” “Handy Man,” or “Mortgage
Direct” as an
impossible-to-forget call name to be easily reached by their clients.
Individuals can choose call names such as “Dave Anthony” or “Cool Dave”
identify and brand themselves.
And, it works on all phones, old and new.
According to Rotbart, on many of the new smartphones, including some
and the Nokia E71, you can’t dial letters for numbers at all using
technology available, but you can make such calls on those devices using
The technology behind this miracle was developed by NTTM over
three long, hard years, Rotbart says.
“There have been other attempts at
enabling users to dial using words instead of numbers, but they not have
succeeded because they took the wrong approach,” he says. “There are
methods of accomplishing this, but nearly all of them would require
manufacturers or service providers to adopt a new set of standards –
that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
All these methods worked in the
lab, but in the field, it was a different story.”
Nearly all methods
failed in practice, except for the one NTTM has adopted, which has
proven to be
a smashing success. Instead of attempting to install translation panels
letters to numbers on phones or at the switching office of service
NTTM places the technology for translation on the SIM card itself.
the technology is available for GSM networks, and by the end of the
Rotbart says, it will be available for CDMA networks as well.
approach has several significant advantages, Rotbart says.
this technology on a flexible SIM card is much easier than setting it up
hardware, whether network or cellphone,” he says. “In addition, the
SIM card manufacturers is much smaller than the number of service
meaning it was easier to make arrangements with their limited numbers,
opposed to the plethora of phone companies.
And the SIM card makers are
interested, so much so that NTTM has already signed its first deal with
the biggest makers of SIM cards, Morpho (Safran group), which makes
million of the things every day. As a result of its deal with NTTM,
be loading the SIM card up with a program that will enable the
translation that NTTM has developed to become available to hundreds of
of people around the world.
Commenting on the deal, Rotbart says: “The
adoption of our technology by SIM manufactures will make it a de facto
standard. Mobile operators will benefit from a ‘plug and play’ solution
requiring no investment in either network modification or mobile handset
replacement. This will spearhead the global adoption of call names, and
business revenue that goes with it.”
The company has a major research
center in Israel and has smaller facilities in Russia and the UK.
now, it has been funded by a series of private investors, but as a
result of the
Morpho deal (and possible other ones now in the pipeline), it’s likely
will actually make a profit by the end of the year.
That sounds good to
Rotbart. “We’re proud to have developed an important product that no one
was able to do just right, despite their attempts,” he says. “Finally,
can ‘brand’ themselves any way they want, using names or terms that make
for others to recognize and remember just whom they are