ACA search for unified number testers begins

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has called on organisations with experience in delivering Internet services to submit applications for the first Australian trial of the unified phone and Internet number system, ENUM.

The electronic numbering system, or ENUM, is an IP-based communications protocol designed to provide users with a single, interactive communications reference number. This reference number, referred to as a uniform resource identifier (URI), is stored within a centrally managed domain name server (DNS), and can be employed by ISPs, telcos and other communications providers to connect users across any form of communications medium seamlessly.

ACA manager of numbering, Robert Johnston, said the ACA was now looking for an operator to act as the tier one registry for the Web-based ENUM database look-up system under a proposed 12-month trial.

Technical issues being examined under the trial will include the usability of the ENUM database interface, the administration and maintenance of records within the database, and the testing of the database system itself.

Equipment used by the ENUM system was similar to that used by ISPs or domain name systems providers to run current Internet and domain services, he said.

Organisations with experience with the Internet, such as ISP, telcos, or companies providing Internet infrastructure, could be suitable for the trial, Johnston said.

Those which could be suitable for interacting with the ENUM system during the trial might range from businesses wanting to connect their own employees, to a university maintaining its students contact information, he said.

Users participating in the trial would require a PC headset or smartphone with the software required for interacting with the ENUM database. “When you go to make a call, ENUM would be used to connect that person to the tier one registry to [retrieve] information about them [another user]. This would include a list of various ways of contacting someone – Web pages, email, fax numbers, and so on.”

This information would come back to the user, and the user would choose how they wanted to contact them, he said. Johnston suggested ENUM could offer a secondary business for tier two providers who offered smart functionality and services relating to the use of the individual’s contact information.

“For example, the user could nominate how they preferred being contacted at a certain time of the day,” he said. “Umpteen tier two providers can be linked into the ENUM service, vying for and providing services to customers at the tier one level.”

The ACA will not be providing any financial support for the chosen ENUM operator during the 12-month trial period.

However, the organisation conducting the tier one trial might be able to recover some funds by charging ENUM service providers connecting to the service for access, he said.

Johnston said the chosen ENUM trial operator would have the advantage of being involved with ENUM technology from the beginning. “Part of the trial is to see whether ENUM is commercially viable in the Australian market,” he said. “The consensus of overseas trials of ENUM seems to be that the concept has been proved. But there’s still the issue of suitable business models to make it a success in the local market. “We need to give operators in Australia the opportunity to experiment and use the technology to look at business models and develop a level of knowledge and understanding of it [ENUM] in this country. For example, we need to look at issues of security and privacy [of information].”

An ACA-run discussion group would be established to deal with any such issues relating to privacy of ENUM user information, he said. Trials of the ENUM protocol have already been conducted extensively across Europe.

Internationally, there also were plans to run a plug-in test event to test the interoperability of the ENUM system across different nations, Johnston said. Applications of interest for the Australian ENUM trial close on July 1.

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