Friday, October 01, 2004

ENUM is gaining momentum in Germany

- After Austria now also Germany is taking up speed on ENUM. A very sucessful 3rd ENUM Day was held in Frankfurt/Main on 28. September. Most astonishing was the number of 140 participants showing up, congratulations. The presentations given (German) can be retrieved from here.

DENIC eG - ENUM Gaining Momentum

DENIC Organizes Third ENUM Day with Focus on Security

In the context of the ongoing ENUM trial in Germany, DENIC, the registry in charge, organized its third ENUM Day on 28 September 2004. ENUM is a new technology which bridges the gap between the worlds of telecommunications and the Internet. ENUM and the ENUM services provide users with access to the whole communications universe through established telephone numbers. Some 140 experts, including many DENIC members already offering ENUM domains, telecommunication-services providers and academics, discussed the progress that ENUM had made in Germany in the preceding months.

Since the second ENUM Day in March 2004, the number of providers handling the registration of ENUM domains had more than doubled. Users can now choose from 43 providers in Germany. Even stronger - 227% - had been the increase recorded for the number of ENUM domains (up from 260 to 850). These figures might appear only marginal given the large number of telephone connections. However, with a single ENUM domain, it is possible to operate whole telephone installations, including several hundreds and even thousands of lines, which means that the number of ENUM users is significantly greater than the number of domains.

Two of the crucial subjects discussed in the course of the ENUM Day were security and concepts for dealing with SPAM in the field of Internet telephony (also known as "SPIT"). In each of these cases, there are issues of authentication (i.e. verification that the sender indicated and the true sender are identical) and protection against data espionage and data corruption. The speakers presented various models for future solution strategies. Professor Andreas Steffen of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur, for instance, spoke about tackling security matters at the technical protocol level of the ENUM standard. John-Erik Horn presented his ideas for a nationwide telephone network for Germany that would use only the Internet and that would route all its calls using ENUM.

Not all speakers approached ENUM in terms of its technical potential. Dr. Volker Leib, a social scientist from the Nexus Institute in Berlin, rates the Internet, voice-over-IP and ENUM as highly significant innovations, which are going to lead to fundamental structural changes; indeed, he believes that some such changes have already occurred and foresees massive shifts in the technological basis of telephony in the coming years. He reported that telecommunications giants, such as Deutsche Telekom and British Telecom, are already working on the assumption of the existing network being closed down within a period of 5-10 years to be replaced by a new IP network based on Internet technology. Despite that, the current telephone numbers will remain in use, as will the more than two billion telephone connections existing worldwide. Leib went on to appeal for a forward-looking innovation policy to provide the general environment for future developments and to ensure legal and planning certainty for the companies involved. Market access must also be made easier for suppliers of voice-over-IP services. Leib finished by stressing the tremendous importance of working for an early launch of commercial ENUM operations and for ensuring an uncomplicated transition from the current trial phase to the "live" phase.

The presentations and the accompanying notes are made available at the DENIC web-site.

Background to ENUM

The term “ENUM” is derived from “telephone number mapping”. It is a protocol defining how to link together resources from the telecommunications and Internet spheres. It sets out a rule by means of which a telephone number can be uniquely mapped to a domain. This domain can then be used for the identification of various communication services, such as telefaxes, cell phones, voice-mail systems, e-mail addresses, IP-telephony addresses, web pages or call diverts.

The idea behind ENUM is simple yet ingenious. Instead of having to grapple with lots of different numbers and addresses for private, office and mobile phones as well as telefax, e-mail and websites, which demand a really big effort just to keep them up-to-date, it is going to be possible in future to enter just one single number per person in our address books. Making sure that each communication is routed to the appropriate output device is then going to be handled by the entries in the ENUM name server.

The linking of telephone numbers and Internet resources is leading to the creation of totally new services. One basic service is finding an Internet terminal with telephony capability from a conventional telephone. As an option, it is possible with ENUM to draw callers’ attention to alternative communication channels that are actually available. If no Internet device with telephony capability is available, the caller will be able to select an appropriate alternative from the list of additional applications presented.

Further general information about ENUM and specific information about the trial operation at DENIC are available on DENIC’s website.

Copyright DENIC eG 2004. Reprint permitted, author's copy requested.

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