INTUG Responds to EC Consultation on Harmonization of Numbering Resources

Today INTUG published its response to the public consultation on numbering for business services, as a contribution to improving the availability of services suitable for a single market for business users throughout the European Union.

Numbering has historically been associated with telephony and dialed calls from fixed or mobile devices with numeric keys. As connections and devices have multiplied globally, the length of numbers has increased. This method of identification is rapidly becoming cumbersome, inadequate and unnecessary as devices capture the numbers in directories of contact information.

A similar process has already happened with email addresses and URLs, which are bookmarked or included within a menu page, or identified as a result of using a search engine. The actual address is rarely entered. Harmonization of email addresses and URLs under Top Level Domains has not been attempted and each organization has the flexibility to adopt its own hierarchies.

The strategic aim should be similar for “telephone” numbers, which should become a code, which is rarely if ever entered, but simply acquired by a device after some access process. Telephone numbers are increasingly used today as Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs).

The exercise of seeking to “harmonize” numbering schemes is therefore questionable. Harmonization has been pursued to get greater consistency between Member States, and to ease customer understanding of number allocation and short codes, for example for emergency services. The tariff structure for mobile numbers does not fit an EU approach.

Businesses would ideally prefer their “European” number to be the same or similar to their national numbers, or the effect would be to add a 28th different number. Given existing inconsistencies, the migration task may well prove to be too great and too costly again. Priority should therefore be given to numbering for prospective pan-EU services.

There are two distinctly different numbering options of potential value to business users. These should not be confused in considering responses to the consultation questionnaire.

The first is an EU Telephone Numbering Space (ETNS), accessible from within and from outside the EU, using a country code after the international dialing prefix. This was the approach tried with the +3883 code, which failed and was withdrawn at the end of 2010.

The second is a number range allocated at EU level, which works consistently when used anywhere within the EU. This could be allocated behind a short code prefix, such as 115, removing the need for the international dialing prefix and a country code when calling. Access to these numbers from outside the EU would require an international prefix and country code prior to the short code prefix, unless implemented in the calling country.

The numbers after the prefix, whether after a short code within the EU, or after an EU country code from outside the EU, could be the same numbers, and could be used by business services to ease cross border and multi-Member State trade, by self-employed people living near borders, and by older people with homes in more than one country.

In each case, the charging principles applying to calls to and from such numbers must be consistent. If applied beyond EU level, this would require an ITU Tariff Principles Study Group Recommendation.

You can download the response here (PDF).

Source: INTUG

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