Redesigning Telco Assets: Numbering Plans
This article is the first of a series that looks at existing telco assets and suggests ideas to redesign them to take full advantage of the latest technologies and business trends.
Numbering plans have been around almost from the beginning of the telephone era. Numbering plans had to be very strictly defined to be globally compatible and unique. For fixed lines were based on regional numbering.
What can be improved?
First of all identifying a person with a number has always been problematic. People are bad at remembering long numbers. Also numbering plans are expensive and hard to use. Operators should still use an internal subscriber number but should allow external identifiers to be defined freely. This means the subscriber will be no longer defined by one identifier but could have multiple and they are no longer all numbers. So let’s change from numbering plan to identifier plan.
Subscribers should be able to assign multiple identifiers to their account. Examples could be URLs, emails (like SIP), Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, LinkedIn accounts, images (like QR codes), sounds/words/brands (like Coca Cola), etc. Different providers could offer different identifier schemes as long as the combination of provider and schema is globally unique. Operators would be able to charge a price for a provider to be able to offer identifier plans, similar to DNS providers license from ICANN their own root domains now.
Why are multiple identifiers better? The easier people can remember somebody’s identifier, the more calls and SMS will be made.
A personal identifier plan
Also virtual private numbering should be extended to allow everybody to set up personal identifier plans. People should be able to assign personal identifiers to their family and friends. Even organizations could be able to create personal identifier plans for its members. Just like a LinkedIn group, subscribers should be able to subscribe to an organization identifier plan. Organizations could have its members call “the president” and just change the contact details every time another president is elected.
How to generate extra revenue?
First of all identifier plans should not be seen as a big revenue generator per subscriber. The days of charging €5/number are over. On the other hand giving external organizations access to identifier plans means that they will know who calls who. Which means that they should pay to have this privileged info. Subscribers might also be willing to subscribe to personal identifier plans if they would be reasonably priced, e.g. €1-2/month for all you can eat access to setting up alternative identifier plans.
What about privacy?
A lot of people do not want their telephone number to be known to others, e.g. VIPs. So making easy dialing plans in which you could just say: “Call President Obama” are not in line with what people want. The solution for this is better call routing & caller privacy, so read about this in the next installment. Also read others in this series like billing.