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A non-geographic number, also called a virtual number, is a telephone number associated with a country, but not to any single geographic location within that country. When someone dials a non-geographic number, the call is automatically transferred to the subscriber's telephone set, wherever that set is located. The destination telephone set can be hard-wired (so-called landline) or wireless (cellular or satellite).
There are various types of non-geographic numbers, based on the method of billing. The caller can pay all charges, the called party can pay all charges, or the charges can be shared. Typical rates are 4 to 10 cents per minute, in total. Charges may derive from more than one network, for example, a local exchange and the non-geographic network itself. The system can provide the user with statistical data concerning the number of calls received in a billing period, where the calls have originated, the average call duration, and even the average number of rings that occur prior to answering.
Non-geographic numbers are especially convenient for travelers. When used with a cell phone, a non-geographic number can provide unlimited roaming capability within the country where the number is assigned. The extension of non-geographic numbers to cover the entire world is mainly an administrative and diplomatic challenge, because the technology is currently in place. The ultimate goal of communications companies and subscribers is the establishment of an affordable, reliable, worldwide non-geographic telephone network.