ENUM - DNS for VoIP
I was at Internet World today and went to a very interesting talk by a guy from Nominet; it was about ENUM a VoIP server resolution service, DNS but for telephone numbers. ENUM effectively allows a user to lookup a telephone number like you would a website and find out the server responsible for managing it. At the moment if one VoIP server wants to call another it has to use the existing telephone network; most servers are technically capable of communicating with each other but until now they had no way of finding each other.
This service has been around for a while but it has been subject to a slow rollout, it won't be available in the UK until the summer. This service has the potential to be very disruptive to the existing telephone network operators. I use a VoIP server in my home office, if I wanted to call another company which also uses a VoIP server my machine contacts my VoIP provider which then passes the call onto other machines which route the call to the destination, this costs as there are lots of 3rd parties involved, with this new system my VoIP server could talk directly to the other companies system, for free!
As this system roles out more and more calls will become free, it will also eliminate geographic boundaries making international calls free as well.
This system may sound perfect but it does have its problems, for example this will only really benefit business or those with a VoIP server, the big telcos have control of home user’s phones and they will be reluctant to offer calls for free. The way around this is for home users to start replacing their home phones with VoIP devices, these would connect to a service provider over the users internet connection, the service provider would then route the call. The provider could charge a rental or service charge and manage things such as multiple numbers, internal extensions and voice mail services. The existing telephone operators such as BT could provide this but I would expect them to hold the rollout of something like this as long as possible so they can secure their existing revenue stream as long as possible.
Another problem is with the numbers, you wouldn't be able to register any number, in the UK you would need to own the number already which will have an associated rental fee, at least until the system gets completely shaken up.
The other potential problem I envisage is with premium numbers and the markets surrounding them, as calls will be direct and all types of numbers will be treated the same there will be no telephone operator to collect a fee.