Brisbane's NAS Communications will trial an IP service in NSW from January that might pre-empt ENUM plans -- an international telecommunications initiative aimed at helping traditional telephone networks and the internet interoperate.
ENUM is a DNS-based protocol for mapping telephone numbers to the internet. It allows normal telephone numbers to be translated into a form that stores and retrieves IP information.
Successful adoption of the protocol is expected to cut costs and improve operational efficiencies for technologies such as Voice Over IP (VoIP).
ENUM trials are being carried out around the world on a nation by nation basis, while Australian negotiations on ENUM adoption have been underway for several years.
Doreen Acworth, CEO of NAS Communications, said a Badja Interconnect broadband delivery showcase slated to start in January would include a trial of eNUMBER -- an ENUM-like protocol which Acworth has claimed predated ENUM -- to an as-yet-unspecified number of towns in northern NSW.
'We actually launched it in November 2000 but have developed since May 2001 the system that we have got currently. So this is sort of the third stage of it,' she said.
An eNUMBER trial starting in January would pre-empt Australian Communications Authority (ACA) plans to call for tenders early next year for a $1 million ENUM trial by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Acworth said that the rapid growth of IP services -- particularly VoIP -- worldwide was causing problems for end-users. Users of IP services found they had to keep track ever-increasing lists of numbers and addresses across diverse contact methods, including email, fax, internet, home telephone, mobile phone, business switchboard and so on.
'NAS Communications' service integrates all this under a single, easily-remembered number,' she said.
Acworth said her company held patents for eNUMBER but had found protecting those intellectual property rights difficult -- especially within the ongoing ENUM development community.
'So we've decided to go ahead with this launch,' she said.
Acworth said the trial rollout would be completed by May 2004 but could continue indefinitely -- especially as the technology was expected to save communications costs considerably for rural areas.
'Actually, as we go along we will be increasing the services available. By having the cable available, circling each town and linking them up to the major cities, it brings them [together],' she said.
Robert Brand, director of telecommunications at Sydney-based consultancy Badja Interconnect, said the rural showcase would definitely go ahead although many details remained unfinalised.
The showcase would include many broadband applications -- one of which was NAS Communications' eNUMBER, he said.
'It's great having broadband ... but no good if you don't have the applications,' Brand said. 'If [regional communities] have the same bandwidth you can get in the city, they will very quickly move to being equal players.'
ACA's media office was contacted for comment but had not yet replied at press-time.