US gets behind ENUM net phone initiative

The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended that the U.S. join an international electronic numbering domain system called ENUM.

ENUM is a mapping protocol that links Internet and telephony systems with a single identifier. It was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force and being implemented in coordination with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Internet Architecture Board. A global domain, e164.arpa, has been set aside by the IAB for the system.

Under the protocol, each user's phone number would be translated to an ENUM identifier. The number +44 20 7291 5981, for example, would become 1.8.9.5.1.9.2.7.0.2.4.4.e164.arpa. The ENUM system would then recognize all addresses and numbers associated with that signifier, according to the ITU Web site.

In a letter posted to the U.S. Commerce Department's Web site Wednesday, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Nancy Victory wrote to the U.S. Department of State saying that ENUM "has the potential to facilitate convergence of communications networks by linking e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, fax numbers and cell phone numbers for individuals or businesses."

The U.S. should "seize this opportunity and take steps to participate in e164.arpa," Victory said in the letter.

Victory is also assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

To date, 13 ITU member countries, including the U.K., have opted into e164.arpa and are beginning trials to establish ENUM services, Victory said. It is time for the U.S. to become more active on this issue, she said.

The NTIA has developed principles to ensure that ENUM can be implemented while protecting competition, interoperability, security and privacy, Victory said.These include preserving national sovereignty, and the right to decide whether and how ENUM is implemented, the letter said.

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