Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN)

What is UIFN?

A Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) enables an International Freephone Service (IFS) customer to be allocated a unique freephone number(s) that is the same throughout the world.

A UIFN is composed of a three-digit country code for global service application, i.e. 800, followed by an 8 digit Global Subscriber Number (GSN), resulting in an 11-digit fixed format. (An IFS caller must dial an international prefix prior to the UIFN).

The Telecommunication Standardization Bureau of the ITU has been requested to perform the task of Registrar for UIFNs, responsible for processing registration requests and assignment of the GSN portion of the UIFN in accordance with ITU-T (new) Recommendation E.169 and (revised) Recommendation E.152, “International Freephone Service”.

Some history on UIFN.

Initially, the International Freephone Service had one access method: domestic freephone numbers (the customer has to communicate a different number in a different format in each country). This was generally too complex for larger companies and their customers. There was a clear market demand for a universal number format.

This demand was expressed in a contribution to a study group of the ITU-T in 1993 and in 1997 UIFN was introduced by ITU and adopted by carriers/operators around the world.


IFN is for companies who want a local profile and

UIFN is for companies who prefer a corporate image and want to reach customers in more than one country with one message and one number

Statements related to UIFN.

“Anyone, anywhere, who picks up any type of telephone, should be able to dial an International Freephone number and the call should be free”.

Because in some cases it is technically and/or economically not feasible that calls are always free to the callers, there is also a second statement:

“Where a choice has to be made between access with some type of charge and no access at all (particularly with mobile phones), it is acknowledged that access with some charge (for the callers) is preferable to no access.”

Conditions for implementation of UIFN between any two countries.

Bilateral Service Agreement of UIFN between two international carriers (the one acting as access provider for the service provider in the other country and vice versa)

Existing domestic 00800-interconnection arrangement with all fixed and mobile operators, including payphones

Willingness of all parties involved to route 00800-calls to the UIFN access provider

The implementation of an agreed method between the international carriers to distinguish different origins/tariffs (usually dual routing)

Ideally no roaming fee to be levied by host mobile operator (in case where the access is toll-free for non-roaming mobile callers)

In case there are more parties in one country providing access to UIFN, it will be necessary to implement a method of identification of the access provider in the network (possibly IN solution)

UIFN Format.

A UIFN is composed of a 3-digit CC (ITU-T Recommendation E.164 country code) for a global service application, 800 and an 8-digit Global Subscriber Number (GSN), resulting in an 11-digit fixed format.

As an example,

An IFS customer’s UIFN could be +800 12345678, where 12345678 being the IFS customer’s GSN.

An IFS caller must dial an international prefix prior to the UIFN.

CC ITU-T Recommendation E.164 Country Code

GSN Global Subscriber Number

IFS International Freephone Service

UIFN Universal International Freephone Number

Benefits of UIFN.

Universal International Freephone Numbering Service optimizes Company’s marketing spending by using one single toll-free number in all participating countries which streamlines company’s toll free operations and makes telecom management easier. There’s no need to set up and maintain a different number for each country.

No operator assistance necessary

Easier to remember, easier to advertise

Leverage company’s advertising efforts to market a single number “universally”

Builds a worldwide corporate identity

Provides the appearance of a local presence without requiring a physical location in-country

Existing U.S. toll-free number can be embedded by inserting preceding or trailing filler digits to reach a total of eight digits

Single-step dialing requires no operator assistance, regardless of where calls originate

Problems with UIFN.

ACCESS: UIFN is an unregulated service, it is not mandatory. Some telecom providers feel free to block or to not provide access to UIFN

DOUBLE CHARGING: some mobile providers charge mobile callers dialing freephone numbers (whilst at the same time receiving wholesale rates for the use of their network)

TECHNICAL BARRIERS: adjustments to (financial) systems are required to ensure correct handling between parties.