6 September 2004 Telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched an internet-based telephone numbering system, in a move intended to encourage the adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or voice over broadband (VoB), in the UK.
“Broadband voice services are a new and emerging market. Our first task as regulator is to keep out of the way,” said Stephen Carter, chief executive of Ofcom.
VoIP is a set of technologies that enables voice signals to be transported over the Internet. VoIP has many advantages for users compared to traditional circuit-switched telephony. First, it is cheaper. Second, it gives users access to a range of features such as conference calls and video telephony, features that are only affordable to large companies at present.
The Ofcom dialling code prefix, 056, can be added to users’ existing numbers, so that they do not need to change their phone numbers. The VoB numbers are not geographically bound either. They can be used anywhere that has an Internet connection.
Ofcom believes that the move will encourage more intense competition in the telecoms market, since the service costs of VoB will be much cheaper than those of traditional fixed-line services.
The telecoms watchdog will also investigate whether the 056 VoIP service complies with traditional phone service requirements. For example, phone numbers must ensure that emergency numbers such as 999 area available to users. The investigation should be completed by mid-November.