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Mining LIDBs

A shift from traditional wireline services to mobility and VoIP has lessened the volume for line information database (LIDB) storage for carriers. But this old standby’s unparalleled ability to provide accurate customer information may give rise to new usage models far beyond telecom.

Conceived as a way to validate collect calls, calling card calls and third-party billed calls, LIDB’s usage has been extended in the last few years. “LIDB is evolving,” says Tom Kershaw, vice president of VoIP services at LIDB owner VeriSign Inc. “The traditional volume has decreased over the PSTN because the traditional use of these databases - for payphone transactions - has declined.” However, LIDBs take information from the SS7 network and key billing names and addresses to the telephone number. The result: goldmines of useful information that is 99.9 percent accurate. With the advent of caller name functionality, LIDB is now used to enable features like Caller ID and *69, and the information has been used for such things as intercarrier settlement and call intercept.

“These databases have a big advantage that keeps them viable, even as the market is changing,” says Chris Lake, associate director of product management at SNET Diversified Group, another LIDB owner. “It uses the service order stream to capture information, so it’s updated quickly and is highly accurate.”

The uses for such a wealth of knowledge extend beyond its intended purpose. LIDB’s roots as a billing information repository sets the stage for the phone number to be the first step in identity management.

For instance, thanks to an underlying trend towards VoIP, more and more people are taking their communications with them, and there has emerged a need for an authorization tool that defies fraud. The telephone number - associated in LIDB with billing and identity validation - could be that tool. “When you authenticate onto a VoIP phone, your home service is ported to wherever you are,” says Kershaw. “A user ID lets people port around thatphysical device. Standards are still evolving, but bringing your ID with you to someone else’s device can create privacy and ownership issues. That’s what is sculpting the next-generation LIDB model.”

Of course, mapping the phone number to a device across the Internet presents technical challenges. The ENUM initiative was developed as one solution to the question of how network elements can find services on the Internet using only a telephone number, and how telephones, which have an input mechanism limited to 12 keys on a keypad, can be used to access Internet services. ENUM at its most basic is the convergence of PSTN and IP networks; it is the mapping of a telephone number from the PSTN to Internet functionalities.

“A lot of development has been around interfacing next-generation networks with legacy databases,” says Kershaw. “Operators will want to access the LIDB database using native IP rather than building out an SS7 network. So we put in a front-end interface system.”

The use of LIDB for intercarrier settlement is changing with VoIP as well. “Previously LIDB was used to verify the ownership of facilities and the billing information,” says Kershaw. “As VoIP and mobility comes on, traditional billing is moving to a flat-rate model, and there are different ways of receiving compensation among carriers across the call path. Ownership and billing relationships between subscriber networks have now given way to ENUM and VoIP database services - these are the new wave.” The question of how intercarrier settlement will be affected amidst all this is still an unknown quantity, he adds.

Lake notes that the telephone number will continue to be a good key for storing information of all types. “We will continue to develop product lines around LIDB and the phone number because it’s a constant,” he says. “Our customer base is expanding - it was once exclusively carriers. Now we have VoIP providers and billing and data clearinghouses. We can expand the available information where there is a demand for it.”

Indeed, LIDB has ramifications beyond telecom as well. “A phone number is verifiable, more so than a social security number or a credit card number from an ID perspective, because it’s difficult to steal,” says Greg Smith, CEO at LIDB owner Accudata Technologies. “A telephone number is easy to check - just call the person. We have access to the CNAM databases too, so we can associate the official name with a telephone number and billing information, and that can be cleaned instantly.”


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Thus, a customer service representative will ask for a telephone number if you call up to buy something from a catalog, for instance, and companies like Accudata can validate the billing information. “Because we can do that in a matter of a few seconds, it makes it accessible to any number of applications.” Smith says many companies are using Accudata’s LIDB services for Internet transactions, such as the auto sales industry. “When you fill out your name, address and phone, they send the information to us for verification before sending the lead on to the dealership,” he notes.

The more a phone number becomes a starting point for identity management, the richer LIDB could become as a resource. “One potential application is for security,” says Smith. “Instead of a thumbprint or facial recognition, systems can use a phone number as the first line of validation.” And, imagine being able to purchase things using only a telephone number. “Eventually, the telephone number may be the first or last step in verifying or authorizing a transaction in a cashless society,” says Smith.

Links

Accudata Technologies www.accudatatech.com
SNET Diversified Group www.snetdg.com
VeriSign Inc. www.verisign.com


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