At&t Offers Global 'Number For Life'

July 08, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Whether you are in Baltimore, Md., or Baltimore, Ireland, long-distance callers will be able to reach you at the same telephone number under a program announced yesterday by AT&T Corp.

AT&T said it would begin taking reservations next week for its new "500 area code," a service designed to let highly mobile customers carry their personal phone numbers with them virtually anywhere they go.

For instance, customers who order a 500 number could route telephone calls to their homes, offices, cellular phones or hotel phone -- wherever the customer programs it to ring.

Thus, a caller would not know whether you were taking your calls at your office or on your boat.

Customers could keep the same 500 number even if they moved to another state or country, AT&T said.

"It's a number for life, if you wish," said AT&T spokesman Jon Mellor.

Mr. Mellor said the 500 number service would not replace one's local phone number, but that many customers would choose to route calls placed to the 500 number to that number.

Local callers would want to continue to call a customer's local number because long-distance rates would apply to calls made through the 500 number.

Callers would be protected against unexpected international toll charges because they would hear a recording telling them whether their calls were being forwarded to foreign telephone numbers, Mr. Mellor said.

One catch is that the recording would not say where the call was being routed, so there would be no way of knowing whether you would be paying the rate to London or to Outer Mongolia, the AT&T spokesman said.

The "True Connections" service represents an evolution of service offered under AT&T's 700 number service, which lets customers forward calls to many worldwide locations.

In addition to call-forwarding, the 500 number service will allow customers to program the number to "look" for them by ringing in several locations in sequence.

The service will also let customers route unanswered calls to voice mailboxes.

AT&T said customers can reserve 500 numbers by calling 1-800-870-9222 starting Tuesday. The new service will begin in the fall. Prices will be set when the numbers become available through local telephone companies.

The long-distance giant noted that the 500 service has one other important benefit: You can turn it off.

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