Thursday, June 30, 2016

If you want to run a business in China

...then you will need a Chinese phone number. I.e. a phone number with the country code +86. Your customers will use this number to reach your company, and you will use this number for outgoing calls to them, too.

There are many SIP providers that offer Chinese phone numbers, but not all of them are good. Here is why.

The phone system in China has an important quirk: it mangles Caller ID numbers on incoming international calls. This is not VoIP specific, and applies even to simple mobile-to-mobile calls. E.g., my mobile phone number in Russia starts with +7 953, and if I place a call to almost any other country, they will see that +7 953 XXX XXXX is calling. But, if I call a phone number in China, they will instead see something else, with no country code and no common suffix with my actual phone number.

The problem is that some SIP providers land calls to China (including calls from a Chinese number obtained from their pool) on gateways that are outside China. If you use such provider and call a Chinese customer, they will not recognize you, because the call will be treated as international (even though it is intended to be between two Chinese phone numbers), and your caller ID will be mangled.

As far as I know, there is no way to tell if a SIP provider is affected by this problem, without trying their service or calling their support.