Google is testing a number portability for its Google Voice application that will let users use their personal mobile phone numbers as the digits through which to route all calls for $20.
Google Voice is a phone management application that lets any user route all of their landline, work and mobile calls through one special number and mailbox, accessible through the Web via Google’s cloud computing infrastructure.
More than 1 million people use the free service, which launched to the entire United States in June. Google Voice provides some neat perks such as call management and archiving, automatic voice mail message transcription, SMS support, conference calling and low-cost international calling.
But assigning each user a special number seems onerous for Google and for the user. To wit, Engadget found that some Google Voice users are seeing a “change/port” option under their phone settings in Google Voice.
For $20, users will be able to move their person mobile phone numbers — not landlines or corporate mobile numbers — to Google Voice, just as if they were switching it from, say, AT&T to Verizon Wireless.
However, the port will also terminate users’ current service plan. This likely means carriers will charge users early termination fees into the hundreds of dollars. GigaOm has more on this.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the portability test:
“We’re continually testing new features to enhance the user experience. For a limited amount of time, we’re making the Google Voice number porting process available to users. We don’t have any additional details to share at this time, but plan to offer this feature to all users in the near future.”
What Google is allowing with this feature is essentially calling in the cloud — the ability to allow one number to free associate among multiple devices rather than be strapped to a single desk phone or handset.
It’s a potentially disruptive force that carriers cannot like at all. Google already tried to disrupt the current carrier model by selling the Nexus One over the Web only.
It will be interesting to see whether many people, beside the cloud aficionados, embrace Google’s cloud calling model.