Wireless, Landline, and VoIP Services: What is a Carrier?

Wireless, Landline, and VoIP Services

Not to be confused with other definitions of “carrier,” a wireless, landline, or VoIP carrier is the company that provides service to such a line for a customer’s use. In some cases, a carrier can provide both voice and data services.

Some services that these companies provide might include only landlines, and some might offer a combination of services for cell, land, and VoIP lines. You might also hear service providers referred to as “network carriers” or “wireless carriers.”

What is the Difference in Carrier Services?

  • Wireless service is considered to be used with devices such as, cell phone, handheld computers, tablets, satellite television, and internet service. The way these carriers operate is by transmitting radio signals to wireless devices. Some of the more popular companies that offer wireless service are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Wireless carrier services have their own NANPA (North American Number Plan Administrator).
  • Landlines are not as common as they used to be; however, there are still providers offering the service. This type of phone line operates by transmitting through wires. A metal wire or more commonly used today, a fiber optic cable carry the signal. AT&T, Time Warner, and Century Link are examples of providers offering landline service.  Landline carriers also have their own NANPA (North American Number Plan Administrator).
  • VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This type of phone service uses the internet connection when placing calls. These services are generally less expensive than other options and sometimes free, such as Skype or Google Talk. VoIP services DO NOT have their own NANPA (North American Number Plan Administrator) and are not really considered a carrier. VoIP providers typically get their numbers from other CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) verses RBOC (Regional Bell Operating Company) since VoIP numbers can not be regional.

How Can You Determine which Carrier a Phone Number is With?

Sometimes an individual will want to find out if a friend’s number or a number they commonly dial is with their same wireless carrier. Many service providers offer free mobile-to-mobile minutes when calling within the same network so it is beneficial to check the carrier of a phone number. This could potentially save a person a hefty phone bill at the end of the month. SearchBug offers individuals a free way identify the carrier for up to 5 numbers daily and have professional batch and API service for those needing to clean hundreds or millions of numbers daily.

Businesses gather and sometimes purchase lists of phone numbers for potential marketing purposes. It is important for them to determine if they are calling a landline or a cell phone. It is currently illegal for a company to solicit business with you via your cell phone number unless they have your explicit consent. Such as the exception is if you have inquired or have on-going business with the company.

A business must determine what type of carrier and line they are calling. SearchBug offers a feature whereby you can determine the line type and carrier for up to 120,000 numbers at a time for a very low cost. The results from SearchBug include phone type (landline, cell, or VoIP), an Operating Company Number (OCN) or also known as the Carrier ID, the original carrier’s name, and the general location of the phone number.

With these services, there is never a need to question a carrier of a phone line again. Using these services can potentially be a money saver on a monthly phone bill and also a money saver from a business perspective; considering there could be a potential law suit if a cell phone number is mistakenly dialed.

Differentiating Landline and Cell Phone Numbers

landline and cell phone
Whenever someone calls you, it’s helpful to be able to figure out whether that call was made from a landline phone or a cell phone. Why?

If you can determine that it was a cell phone, then you can feel free to call back at any time of the day in order to leave a message. If it’s a landline, however, you might not want to call at certain times, like early in the morning or late at night, because the ringing of the landline phone might wake people up if the homeowners never turn off the ringer.

Another consideration is the other party’s cell phone minutes. That is, if you ascertain that a phone call was made from a mobile phone, you might choose to respond by sending a text message or by writing an email. That way, you don’t have to worry about eating up the other person’s valuable phone minutes if you’re not sure and want to be respectful of that.

Businesses can also benefit from being able to tell cell phone numbers apart from landline numbers.

If you run, say, a hair salon, you might be in the habit of texting your customers about upcoming appointments. However, you don’t want to be sending text messages to a landline number by mistake. Not only will text messages to landlines never get delivered (although some landline based VoIP numbers do accept text messages) you may still be charged a fee by your text message service provider for these requests.

In addition, many businesses and medical offices want to have a cell phone number for every one of their clients or patients so that they can reach them at any time of the day. And medical offices may qualify for EHR incentives if their phone number data is more meaningful.

Most schools want to be able to reach parents in case of any type of emergency involving their children and when filling out the school forms, occasionally parents don’t enter the right numbers in the correct fields. If school administrators call a landline number during the day when no one is home it can be useless, this wastes school administrator time and can cause your child undo anxiety.

If you manage a doctor’s office, and you are in the processing of switching from a paper filing system to an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, you need to input up-to-date information on the phone numbers of all of your patients.

How Do You Know if You are Calling a Landline or Mobile Number?

So how do you actually go about figuring out whether a certain phone number is a landline number or a mobile number? A company like SearchBug can actually do all of the work for you. In fact, the company’s phone number verification tools is among one of its most popular services.

So how does this system work? All you have to do is visit the landline or cell phone number tool and enter the phone number. Any valid phone number from the United States or Canada will work. SearchBug will then tell you whether that phone number is a landline number, a wireless number, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number, or an unknown number (unknowns can be for a variety reasons such as the area code is invalid, or the area code and prefix do not match, or the number provide is not a valid number like the area code 555 is used for movies.

VoIP numbers by the way, are a system of vocal communications in which the sounds of people’s voices are carried over the Internet. VoIP numbers are typically sold in blocks of 1000s to VoIp providers from the major CLEC (Central Local Exchange Carriers).

That’s not all. SearchBug will also respond with the following pieces of information about that number:

  • the name of the phone company or, in the case of VoIP, the name of the local exchange carrier
  • the city or town where a landline phone is located, or where a mobile phone owner lives
  • the area code local
  • the local time zone for that number

You can find out all this information for free, too. SearchBug will even let you search for up to five different phone numbers a day. And for a nominal charge, you can find out if the phone number you searched for was ported – meaning whether that number was transferred, say, from a landline phone to a mobile phone or from AT&T to Verizon for example.

For an extra charge, you can learn the name of the person to whom that phone number is assigned if you need that sort of information. That can be a valuable tool in case, for instance, someone keeps calling you and hanging up whenever you answer.

What Are EHR and EMR Incentives and Penalties?

Electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems are revolutionizing the medical profession, so much so that the federal government has decided to reward doctors who set up these systems and punish those who do not.

For the rest of this post, we will use the term EHR and not EMR, as EHR systems are more comprehensive, and they include EMR systems. EMR systems, which predate EHR systems, are simply electronic versions of patients’ medical information: health charts, results from checkups, and all of the other items that doctors used to store in office file cabinets before the advent of computers.

On the other hand, EHR systems are sophisticated, secure databases which include all of those EMR records, but which also let doctors, lab technicians and healthcare providers manage and share information with one other. As such, a patient’s EHR records will stay with him or her from infancy to a nursing home, no matter where he or she might live in the interim.

What is the Benefit to Doctors Using the EHR System?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, popularly known as “the stimulus,” provided monetary incentives to doctors all over the country to buy EHR systems. This has come to be know as EHR and EMR incentives. More precisely, doctors need to purchase an EHR system and then be able to prove that they are using it in a significant way.

Of course, as a doctor you are responsible for paying for the initial cost of setting up your EHR system; you are only eligible for stimulus money after this system is up and running within your practice.

If you applied for one of these reimbursement packages in either 2011 or 2012, you were eligible to receive up to $44,000 from Medicare, or up to $48,400 from Medicare if you work in a region that is impoverished. Or you would be eligible to receive $64,000 in EHR reimbursement funds from Medicaid.

These payments would come in five installments, one installment per year for five consecutive years. For example, the $44,000 package from Medicare would be broken down as follows:

  • $18,000 the first year
  • $12,000 the second year
  • $8000 the third year
  • $4000 the fourth year
  • $2000 the fifth and final year.

These financial incentives are decreasing every year, however. So if you apply for the Medicare EHR program in 2013, you only receive $15,000 the first year, and if you apply in 2014, the initial payout shrinks to $12,000. And as of the start of 2017, these reimbursements will no longer exist.

If a doctor chooses not to implement an EHR system in his or her office, he or she not only misses out on this reimbursement opportunity, but also risks financial penalty. That is, if a doctor is without an EHR system, the government will take a way one percent of his or her reimbursement from Medicare, thus missing out on any EHR and EMR incentives.

Come 2016, the government will withhold two percent of Medicare funds from EHR-less doctors, and three percent in 2017. In 2018 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will look into how many doctors have EHR systems in place. And if fewer than 75% of American doctors are using this kind of a system, then a full five percent of Medicare funds may be withheld from the doctors who are not participating.

Fortunately, converting to an EHR system does not have to be difficult. There are several companies that specialize in software for EHR and EMR incentives.  MedicalRecords.com, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one such provider and can help obtain the right software.

In upcoming posts we’ll look at this conversion process, how you can implement an  EHR system in compliance with the federal government’s recommendations, and specific benefits an EHR system can offer you and your patients helping you qualify for EHR and EMR incentives.

Searchbug offers some missing pieces to the puzzle and helps make patient phone numbers even more meaningful thereby making the EHR and EMR incentives even more attractive.   If you’d like to find out how the Searchbug phone identification service can help make your medical records more meaningful please feel free to call us at 800-990-2939 and ask about  our phone number ID service.

Marketing Lists and Text Messaging

Marketing Lists via text messaging campaigns are among the most effective ways of reaching customers and potential customers. With just your smartphone at hand, you can create enthusiasm for your products or services immediately. But the only way you’ll succeed at text message campaigning – which is known in the business and advertising communities as SMS, or Short Message Marketing – is to have a carefully-compiled marketing list.

Marketing List and Text Messages - You have 1 New MessageFirst of all, what makes a text message campaign so helpful to small businesses? The main reason is that so many people will see the texts you send them. You could hang a sign in a store window on the busiest street in town, yet many people would simply walk right by it without noticing. In contrast, studies have shown that over 90% of people, as high as 95%, will open and look at a texted ad at once.

There are more benefits to text messaging ads, too. They’re friendly to the environment. They make your business seem cutting-edge, even ‘cool.’ They’re cheaper than many other forms of advertising – including TV spots and, believe it or not, traditional flyers! They’re interactive: people can respond to you right away with questions, comments or suggestions, and you can answer them right away. Perhaps best of all, people who are intrigued by your texts may share them with their contact lists via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thus, those people will do additional advertising for you, for free!

If you’ve just opened a small business, whether it’s a pizzeria or a garage or something else entirely, you’ll probably want to buy a marketing list – a list of potential customers – from a company specializing in such lists. But these lists may not include cell phone numbers, as there are laws around marketing to cell phones. So how do you get to your potential customers?  You can email or call people and ask them to sign up for your text messaging promotions (to do so, they could email you back or text you a certain code.)

You can also get people to agree to receive your texts by including sign-up sheets on your website and social media sites, and by having your employees ask your customers if they’d like to receive texts.  There are even iPad apps specifically designed to manage in-store sign ups and people like using iPads and tablets so it’s an easier way to get them to give you their information.

But to reiterate, you should never text a customer without their permission beforehand. An unsolicited text message can make customers feel violated, and rightly so. Plus, this practice probably goes against your carrier’s rules, and may even be unlawful where you live. Never pressure anyone to join your text marketing list, either, and instruct your employees not to pressure anyone. Further, there should always be a simple way for your customers to opt out of getting your texts should they change their minds about it.

In order to make more people want to be on your text message marketing list, you have to offer them incentives, incentives they can’t receive any other way. Maybe they get a special discount or coupon, or maybe an exclusive freebie – three slices of pizza for the slice of two, for instance – or maybe you’ll even set up special times during which they can come into your establishment, times when the place is otherwise closed to the general public.

Once you have a sizable text message marketing list at your disposal, the next step is to use it. Just remember that effective text messages are not always easy to create. DO NOT just throw something together off the top of your head. Rather, take care in crafting messages. Write out words and phrases as much as you can; try not to abbreviate even if you believe that a certain abbreviation or acronym is well-known. At the same time, use as few words as you can without sacrificing meaning. Use correct spelling and grammar. Don’t forget to provide the name of your establishment. (You might choose to include a link to your company’s website.) Most of all, there should be what advertisers refer to as a ‘call to action.’ That means you should provide a specific, attractive reason as to why the person receiving the text ought to get to your place of business as soon as possible. Don’t just say: “We have great prices on teddy bears.” Say: “All teddy bears are on sale, up to 50%, until tomorrow night.”

Once you get the hang of text marketing, you can start having fun with it. For example, you might set up a contest in which the tenth person to text you back receives a prize. Or if you own, say, an ice cream parlor, you could create polls to discover your customer’s favorite flavors. You might even set up a weekly poll in which you pit one flavor against another. Be creative!

If you’re not aware, SearchBug offers a free text messaging service that you can use from your computer.  Get up to five (5) free texts daily or subscribe for only $5.97 a month for unlimited texts.