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ITU says numeric .tel domains “may be confusing”

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2013, Domain Registries

The International Telecommunication Union has warned ICANN that numeric .tel domain names, due to be released by Telnic tomorrow, “may confuse customers or cause undue conflicts”.

In a letter to ICANN, Malcolm Johnson, director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said that there’s a risk that numbers-only .tel name could be confused with the E.164 numbering plan.

Johnson asked ICANN to explain how these numbers will be allocated and used:

ITU must express its concern about TELNIC’s recent announcement launching an “all numeric .tel domains” service from 15 October 2013. This raises a number of policy, legal, and practical implications on the potential usage of all-digit strings, not only under .TEL domain, but also under any future telephony-related new gTLDs

We are seeking this clarification as the digit strings appear similar to telephone numbers and could be used in a manner similar to telephone numbers, which may confuse customers or cause undue conflicts arising from their use.

E.164 is the standard for phone numbers worldwide. The ITU has been angsty about the potential for clashes ever since .tel was first proposed back in 2000.

Indeed, Telnic promised when it applied in 2003 not to allow numbers in .tel, precisely in order to calm these fears.

But when it asked for this self-imposed ban to be lifted in 2010, the ITU didn’t have anything to say (at least, it did not respond to ICANN’s public comment period).

Read Johnson’s letter here (pdf).

Coming soon: phone numbers in .tel

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2013, Domain Registries

Will companies defensively register their phone numbers? Telnic is to start selling long numeric .tel domain names for the first time, so we’re about to find out.

The company plans to lift the longstanding restriction on numeric domains of eight characters or longer on October 15, according to a press release (pdf) this morning:

Registrants wishing to register strings such as 00442074676450.tel or 0207-467-6450.tel will be able to do so through ICANN-accredited Registrars from 15:00 GMT on Tuesday 15th October.

“Registrants now have an increased choice of registering a .tel name or a .tel number under which they can publish all types of contact information online,” said Khashayar Mahdavi, CEO of Telnic. “This means that if the customer knows either the business name or telephone number for a business, it can be reached online quickly in a mobile-friendly way.”

Telnic expects numeric .tel domains to cost the same as regular .tel domains, which varies by registrar but can be as low as about $15. There’s not going to be any special sunrise period.

Telnic has had the ability to do this since early 2011, when ICANN approved its Registry Services Evaluation Process request to lift its original ban on numeric-only second-level domains.

The RSEP was not without controversy. Telnic, remember, was one of two applicants for .tel back in 2003, and it won partly because its application committed the company to avoiding numerals.

There had been concern expressed by the International Telecommunications Union and others that phone number .tel domains might interfere with ENUM-based numbering schemes.

Those concerns had largely dried up by the time Telnic submitted its RSEP in 2010, when the only complaint came, weirdly, from Go Daddy.

Another .tel-only registrar accredited

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2012, Domain Registries

A Chinese firm has become the second company to emerge as a seemingly pure-play .tel registrar.

Unlike most registrars, Beijing Tong Guan Xin Tian Technology Ltd is not approved to sell .com domains. According to ICANN’s records it’s only been accredited in .tel so far.

The company, which does business as Novaltel, even has a .tel domain listed as its official site in ICANN’s registrar directory, which is a first.

Its customer-facing site, at novaltel.com, which I don’t think is fully live yet, is heavy on the .tel branding.

This all makes me wonder whether Telnic, the .tel registry, has another big deal in the works.

At the moment, the reason .tel is a gTLD of roughly 270,000 domains rather than 220,000 is that another pure-play .tel registrar distributed about 50,000 names in one big batch in January 2011.

Unusual as it is, Novaltel is not the first Chinese registrar to devote itself entirely to .tel.

The other is Tong Ji Ming Lian Technology Corporation Ltd, also based in Beijing, which does business as Trename.

Trename is currently responsible for 20% of .tel’s total domains under management, about 55,000 names, according to the most recent official registry reports.

Those domains were registered a year ago as part of a deal Telnic announced with HC International, a business-to-business e-commerce firm also based in China.

That deal is basically the reason that .tel’s overall volumes have not been affected so badly by two years of speculators dropping post-landrush registrations following its 2009 launch.

So does .tel have another spike on the cards?

Short .tel domains available tomorrow

Telnic has announced that two-letter and numeric-only .tel domain names will becomes available from tomorrow at 2pm UTC.

You’ll be able to register any two-letter .tel domain that has not already been claimed in a two-week landrush period, which ends today, with the exception of combinations that match ccTLDs.

Numeric-only and numeric/hyphen domains are restricted to seven characters and under, in order to avoid clashes with telephone numbers.

The release of numeric .tel domains was the subject of a minor controversy when Telnic first made the request to ICANN last year.

Telnic said pricing is expected to be the same as regular .tel registrations – usually about the same price as a .com domain name.

A list of participating registrars can be found here.

Short .tel domains coming June 1

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2011, Domain Registries

Telnic, the .tel registry, is to start selling short and numeric .tel domain names from June 1.

The company announced today that two-character and numeric-only .tel domains will first be subject to a premium-price landrush, followed by general availability from June 14.

It’s the first time you’ll be able to register domains containing only numerals, but you won’t be able to register anything with more than seven digits, including hyphens.

This would presumably rule out phone numbers including area codes in most if not all places.

All two-letter strings that correspond to existing country-code top-level domains are also reserved, as are all one-letter strings, whether they be numeric or alphabetic.

The release follows Telnic’s moderately controversial request to ICANN to liberalize its registration policies, which I previously covered here and here.

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