End users gain access to telecommunication services via numbers. For this reason, the development of an efficient numbering plan is a determining factor for guaranteeing quality and the success of telecommunication services.
The international numbering plan is managed by the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunications Standardisation Sector (ITU-T). Development and management of the national numbering plan is in the hands of national organisations (in Belgium this is BIPT). BIPT must ensure that equal access to adequate number series is created for each operator, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Furthermore, the general number supply of this scarce resource must be kept up. This is done by means of important adaptations to the numbering plan after consultation with the sector and the public.
A number may contain information on the type of service (brand information relating to the service provided!), the location of the person called (geographical information), the operator used (distinction between operators) and the cost. Note that these characteristics are not necessarily always present and that a number of them are disappearing.
Number portability is a central feature of the telecommunications policy. There are two basic reasons for this. Numbers are an important means of communication with customers. Each change has an immediate negative impact on potential customer contacts. Furthermore, the liberalisation of the telecommunications market means there is an increasing concern that newcomers to the market would be treated unfairly, considering that potential customers would have to change telephone numbers. Research has indicated that a lack of number portability has a considerable negative impact on the chances of newcomers. For this reason, it has been decided to introduce number portability. To that end a ‘number portability task force’ has been formed under chairmanship of BIPT.
The Numbering department is also responsible for the issues relating to ‘carrier select and preselect’. These are systems whereby end users can gain access to the services of operators other than the one with which they have a direct connection.
The Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications is also a member of the Board of Directors of DNS Belgium (registration of domain names in Belgium).