Understanding Telephone Number Translation

by Andrew Prokop | Arrow Systems Integration

Source: No Jitter

I think of Unified Communications (UC) as expansive as well as contractive. Like a lump of Silly Putty, it can be stretched and squished to meet the ever changing needs of its users.

It wasn't that long ago when electronic communication was limited to telephone calls. You picked up a telephone receiver, pressed a finger down on a series of numbered buttons, and voila, you were able to speak with someone miles away.

Sometime in the 1980s we added email to our bag of communications tricks. Since then we've expanded to video, instant message, WebRTC, and SMS text. I would be remiss if I didn't add Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, and other forms of social media to that list. There are days when I feel I communicate more through these new forms of engagement than anything else.

For the millennial generation, land-line telephones have become passé and cell phones, nay, smart phones are used for nearly anything except voice communication. Those of you with teenage children certainly know that.

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As we continue to add new ways to communicate, the address for all these forms of engagement becomes very important. Imagine what it would be like if my VoIP address was aprokop@arrowsi.com, my video address was andrewprokop@arrowsi.com, and aprokop1958@arrowsi.com was used for instant messaging. Remembering all those addresses and how they are applied would create a condition where people stopped using one or more forms of communication.

Instead, UC allows me to condense that list into a single address for voice, video, and instant messages into a single format -- SIP:aprokop@arrowsi.com.

In the IP world, SIP:aprokop@arrowsi.com is known as a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). "SIP" indicates the protocol for this form of communication, "aprokop" is the subscriber name, and "arrowsi.com" is the domain of the subscriber. Put them together and you are findable from anywhere in the world from any IP network.

Of course, arrowsi.com can be used for services outside of UC. For example, Web, email, and communications could all be member services of arrowsi.com. The protocol designation in the URI is used to determine which service should be invoked -- e.g. "SIP:" for unified communications and "mailto:" for email. The important aspect is that the remainder of the URI can stay constant.

This leaves us with a big problem to solve. How do I pick up an old-fashioned, analog telephone at home and call my SIP telephone out there on the public Internet? DTMF touch tones are not easily translated into alphanumeric values. Where's the "@" on a telephone dial pad? Additionally, resources like the White Pages have yet to understand anything but numbers to identity a telephone user. However, as I UC-enable my enterprise, I don't want to prohibit calls from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to the SIP world.



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