ENUM to get twice-over

ENUM, a numbering system aimed at bringing together the internet and the public switched telephone network, is likely to come under considerable official scrutiny before any decision is made on adopting it in this country.

ENUM, a numbering system aimed at bringing together the internet and the public switched telephone network, is likely to come under considerable official scrutiny before any decision is made on adopting it in this country.

The government will probably wish to have some measure of control over the way Enum is managed, says MED IT specialist Frank March, speaking at the InternetNZ Festival of Technology earlier this month. It’s unlikely to control the assignment of numbers itself, but may reserve the right to approve the body that does so.

ENUM was developed to enable users and “network elements” to find services on the internet using only a telephone number. Telephones, with only 12 keys, can be used to access internet services. Because it unifies aspects of the technology of circuit-switched telephone services and packet-switched internet services, it promises smoother running of voice over IP technology. Another obvious — if relatively trivial — benefit has been noted by the working group organising it, a division of the Internet Engineering Taskforce: saving space on business cards.

To make an ENUM address, the phone number, for example, 64-9-377-9902, is reversed. Dots are placed between each digit, and the master ENUM domain e164.arpa, added to the end. So the ENUM address for Computerworld would be 2.0.9.9.7.7.3.9.4.6.e164arpa. The number must be reversed, as telephone numbers are ordered from the general to the particular (country-area-number), while internet addresses run the opposite way (name-domain-country).

In an email response to Computerworld, March says any application for the local ENUM space is likely to come to the Ministry of Economic Development, though he emphasises he would not be the appropriate official.

“In the absence of government policy my advice to the minister would certainly be to enter an objection as is provided for by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and ... the preparation of a public discussion document.”

March remarked at the festival event that our government, like others, had moved rather slowly on the internet, and control of domain-name registration and service provision had “got out of the gate” before government realised the potential of the medium.

However, he later told Computerworld this did not mean the government regrets not controlling the internet directly or indirectly. A paper prepared in 1999 by MED officials expresses confidence in the IsocNZ (now InternetNZ) domain administration system, though some concern was expressed that registration was a monopoly. That position has now been remedied, with the Shared Registry System (SRS).

Concern about possible government-imposed restrictions on the management of the internet have arisen with the proposal, in the government administration select committee’s report on censorship legislation, that if ISPs cannot agree on a code of practice (see story page 7), a licensing system may be introduced.

At a glance…

  • ENUM reverse-maps phone numbers on to IP adresses
  • Allows users and devices to find services on net using just a phone number
  • Promises smoother running of VoIP systems

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