Analyst: Wireless directory not likely to happen

As many wireless mobile carriers in the U.S. are pushing towards adopting a wireless mobile phone directory, the Canadian telecommunications industry doesn’t seem to be on the same path, according to industry insiders.

Wireless carriers tend to develop procedures as a result of customer demand, and in the case of a wireless directory there hasn’t been much desire to start a service like that yet, explained Marc Choma, the director of communications at the Ottawa-based Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA).

A wireless directory would work the same way as if a person were to call information traditionally, except he or she would indicate that he or she was looking for a cellular number as opposed to a landline number. According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) in the U.S., the numbers would only be accessible through the 411 information call-in service.

Due to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) ruling that wireless phone numbers can’t be published without consent from each cell phone user, Choma said that creating a directory would be a huge venture as it would also involve creating a cross-carrier database of all wireless carriers’ customers.

“You have to obviously keep track of all of the cell phone users and who would and wouldn’t want to be included in a directory and there are almost 14 million of them out there in Canada,” Choma said. “It would be a rather large undertaking.”

On top of the potential problems facing carriers looking to set up a wireless directory in Canada, cell phone users would also be affected. They would be responsible for the costs associated with taking calls from individuals including telemarketers that they wouldn’t have been dealing with had their number not been made available publicly.

“In Canada it’s not calling-party-pays — those minutes get used on your phone regardless if you make the phone call or if you are called by somebody,” said Mark Quigley, research director for Ottawa-based analytics firm The Yankee Group in Canada. “I don’t think people are interested in having that happen on their wireless handsets particularly given how the world of wireless works — a minute is a minute is a minute.”

A directory service would be advantageous to countries such as Sweden, that have more than a 100 per cent penetration rate of wireless phones, explained the CWTA’s Choma. It would also make sense for communities where all of the businesses are based on wireless services.

Because of the many disadvantageous for the consumer — including lack of privacy and added costs — associated with a wireless phone directory, Quigley doubts the service will be made available in Canada anytime soon. If something does happen however, it will depend on what has worked south of the border.

“For many things, the Canadian market takes a look at what is going on else where before making a decision and certainly the similarities between Canada and the U.S. would mean that we would probably not do anything,” Quigley noted. “[We would] let the Americans go ahead and do it and then sit back and kind of watch and see what happens as a result and try and get a better understanding for what the actual benefits would or would not be.”

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