I wonder if we need to take OFCOM and even the ITU out of the loop for telephony.
We can already make and receive calls in a variety of ways that have no OFCOM or BT or ITU involvement. Not just skype and FaceTime, but direct SIP URIs. I have added SIP URIs for my own telephony to my business card, and set up the office to handle sales, support, accounts and some direct staff calls via SIP URIs.
Such calls are made as a direct SIP call from one device to another which works just like any other IP based protocol like web pages and email. There is no telephony telco in the way to log the call or charge for it - it is just IP packets. So no Data Retention Directive logging of the call at all. That is good, yes?
The real trick is making a number range for this - using enum style DNS it is possible for a registrar to set up and sell or give numbers under a numbering block. I'd like OFCOM to allocate that, ideally UK block 04, to a registry which will hold SIP endpoint addresses and end user direct registration of numbers.
This eliminates all of the number porting issues as numbers are owned by the end user by contract with the registrar. No porting is needed! But telcos could manage that for users to make it easy.
This would be settlement free in that any caller can make a direct SIP call, but a telco could charge (lets say) same as 01/02/03 retail price to hand over calls and a legacy SSL7 interconnect could charge the same as 01/02/03. That would allow clean interworking as many telcos could offer to route 04 numbers for a tiny fee but clued up telcos can route directly and end users can bypass their telco and route directly. Those that pay are those using old fashioned analogue phone lines and ISDN and then just pay the same as normal geographic calls.
But lets assume for a moment that OFCOM won't play - what is to stop a consortium of VoIP providers from doing this anyway - making a simple registry for numbers within an existing space, such as UK numbers starting 04?
Well, as far as I can see, nothing. It would not link to BT and traditional carriers, but would work via any VoIP provider signed up to the scheme and would not cost them. If the scheme allows charging for calls the same as 01/02/03 at retail, then why would any VoIP carrier not go for that? No ongoing cost apart from IP transit, and paid for calls?
I think the first step is a meeting with OFCOM on this - it would be radical and forward thinking - both things OFCOM are not known for. If OFCOM did go for it then it could be officially under the e164 enum domain and maybe the likes of Nominet would be a good registry to manage it.
I think we need meetings of the stakeholders involved to make this happen.