ISPs get IP phone numbers for voice services in Japan

A telephone number starting with 050 now means IP (Internet Protocol) telephony in Japan.

Japan’s Ministry of Public Management Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT) distributed 7 million IP telephony numbers to five ISPs (Internet service providers) on Monday, it said Wednesday.

The five ISPs are BB Technologies Corp., which has been offering an IP telephony service to Yahoo Japan users since April, KDDI Corp., NTT-ME Corp., Fusion Communications Corp. and ZTV Corp, a local cable Internet provider in West Japan, an MPHPT official said.

The MPHPT is currently examining an application from NTT Communications Corp., the official said.

Having a regular number starting with 050 for IP telephony allows people to call an IP telephone from a fixed-line phone. However, it may be some time before the service is truly available.

“Generally speaking, it will take about a year until interconnection rules are established and related software and other technologies are developed,” Isao Yoshikawa, a spokesman for NTT East Corp., one of the two de facto monopoly fixed-line phone companies in Japan, said.

NTT East will not disclose if it is in talks with any ISP about starting an IP telephony service, he said.

Announcing an IP telephony service is the flavour of the month in Japan-many ISPs have announced that they will start an IP telephony trial or a commercial service later this year or in the first quarter of 2003.

Three network infrastructure companies and ISPs, KDDI, Japan Telecom Co. Ltd. and Tokyo Telecommunication Network Co. Inc. (TTNet), will work together to provide IP telephony for 12 ISPs through a service from ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) provider EAccess Ltd., they announced Wednesday.

Their joint commercial service is expected to start in March next year, they said in a statement. ISPs in this alliance include NEC Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. and Sanyo Electric Co Ltd.

NTT Communications, another network infrastructure company, formed an alliance earlier this month with ISP Sony Communication Network Corp. and Japan’s largest ISP, Nifty Corp., owned by Fujitsu Ltd. Each will start a trial IP telephony service in December.

NEC and Matsushita will also join NTT, Sony and Nifty in this trial. In addition, NEC plans to start another IP telephony service with Fusion Communications in February, hoping to eventually pull all of the services together, according to Susumu Sakamoto, an NEC spokesman.