14 February 2003 The US government has thrown its weight behind a proposal to map telephone numbers to Internet addresses, a scheme being developed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
The electronic numbering system, called ENUM, will allow people to use one identifier for a variety of communication purposes, including land lines, email, mobile phones, instant messaging and faxes. In the process, such a scheme would also boost convergence of the telephone network with the Internet.
The US becomes the thirteenth country to throw its weight behind the proposal. The UK has already expressed support and trials have been held in Austria, China, France and Sweden. Specifications for a US implementation were released last week.
ENUM works by mapping distinctive telephone numbers into a universal form, followed by an “e164.arpa” suffix. That means that the number +44 1234 567890 would be automatically translated at the exchange to an IP address in the form 0.9.8.7.126.96.36.199.2.1.4.e164.arpa, for example, and routed accordingly.
“People today remember phone numbers far easier than any other identifier. Through ENUM, a user with the phone number +1-234-456-7890 could use that number to deliver email, a regular phone call, a voice over IP phone call and any number of other services,” said Steve Lind, the vice chair of the ENUM Forum.