Companies can now save on phone bills by converting their telephone numbers to an internet domain.
A service launched this week allows anyone calling registered numbers from an internet phone or making calls between two internet-enabled private branch exchanges (IPBXs) to make the calls free of charge.
Nominet, which manages the national registrar for the .uk internet domain and the domain name servers that route internet traffic, is behind the new service, known as Enum.
Nominet spokesman Phil Kingsland said, "Using the internet Domanin Name Server (DNS) system makes Enum a quick, stable and cheap link between telecommunications systems and the internet." Kingsland said early adopters are likely to include firms with tightly-knit supply chains, those wishing to unify their communications systems, and those running 0800 numbers.
Kingsland said firms that already use voice over internet protocol (VoIP) for free internal calls can use the Enum service to extend VoIP to business partners and customers. Software developers are likely to come up with applications that exploit Enum, said Kinglsand.An early one is likely to be a "follow-me" facility that will redirect calls to the subscriber, wherever he or she is.
Enum could also offer the ability to translate a voice call into an e-mail message or a fax, he said. "Basically, Enum allows you to choose how you want to be contacted."
"This is one of those times when the technology infrastructure had to be there before people could start thinking about how to exploit it," he said. Kingsland said firms that already have IPBXs would face minimal costs in "Enum-enabling" their communications systems. He expected the registrars and other service providers to provide cost-benefit calculators to help firms evaluate their options.
Kingsland said the benefits that arise depended on the individual firm's business model. Some firms, he noted, charge for calls to service departments. They might lose revenue as a result of going on Enum, but this depended on how they chose to implement the facility.
He said Nominet, which has won awards for its customer service, would be registering its own contact numbers. "We think that is the right thing to do, for us," he said.
There are now three Enumn registrars. They are Safenames, Enum2Go, and Just Voice & Data. Others are going through Nominet's accreditation system.
How it works
Registering a telephone number on the Enum database essentially converts that number to an internet domain name address. This makes it contactable by all internet users.
You submit the numbers that you want to register to the registrar, along with proof that you "own" the number, and how to handle calls to that number.
The registrar then authenticates registered telephone numbers itself or uses a third-party validation service provider appointed by the UK Enum Consortium, the country's top Enum controlling body. This will prevent anyone stealing the numbers or "cybersquatting" - a risk with internet domain names.
Enum validation diagram