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Google has started contacting punters who expressed interest in getting early access to the company's telephony service, starting to connect up the million numbers it reserved last week.

The private beta of Google Voice was launched back in March, at which time the company said it would get back to anyone who registered an interest - something it is now doing, having reserved a million numbers from provider Level 3 in preparation for a public launch.

Google Voice is built on the remnants of Grand Central, a company snapped up by the Mountain View Chocolate Factory two years ago. The service promises to provide a single phone number which is forwarded to as many as six numbers that ring simultaneously, allowing the user to combine mobile, fixed, business, and home into a single contact number.

Last week, TechCrunch reported that Google Voice will support number portability - allowing customers to bring their own number into the service - which is critical as removes the need to distribute a new number, and it means that caller-ID is more likely to show the Google Voice number. But those not prepared to commit to the service will want a new number, which is why the company has grabbed a million new phone numbers from Level 3, as reported by PC World.

Having run the beta, and presumably tweaked the service, Google has apparently started contacting those who expressed an interest in the service - though we don't know if this is prior to a larger-scale launch or part of a slower roll-our.

We do know that Google Voice will remain a US-only service for the foreseeable future. The European habit of forcing the calling party pay for the call would make the free service impractical on this side of the pond, for a while at least. ®

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