The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved the new top-level domain suffix ".tel," awarding a contract to Telnic, an internet communications company based in London.

ICANN's board of directors made the decision last Tuesday, said Andrew Robertson, spokesman for ICANN in London. The decision was drowned out by ICANN's rejection at the same meeting of the .xxx domain name.

The .tel top-level domain is expected to go into effect in 2007, said Benjamin Blumenthal, Telnic marketing director. Registration details will be announced in the coming weeks on Telnic's website.

A "sunrise" period will allow public bodies and business trademark holders with prior rights to register their domains, which will be followed by a "land rush" period where registration is open to all, Blumenthal said.

Telnic has a ten-year contract with ICANN, Blumenthal said. The fee paid by Telnic to ICANN will depend on the number of .tel registrations and the wholesale registration price, he said.

The .tel domain name will be available through registrars and resellers, Blumenthal said. The fee was not available Monday, although Blumenthal said it will be competitive with the market.

Telnic, which applied for the domain in October 2000, says it envisions creating a universal text and navigation system for contact information over the internet. Mobile device users could communicate and access the services of organisations or individuals with .tel domain names.

In its application to ICANN, Telnic said the traditional numbering system has reached a threshold, and the new domain will aid migration to a communications network based on IP (Internet Protocol). The .tel domain will be a unified location to find contact information and foster converged fixed-line and wireless services, Telnic said.

As an example of potential use, Telnic offered the example of how the new domain could aid someone trying to reach the Hertz car rental service. A user would type on their mobile phone and be connected to a customer service representative for the local area.

Private individuals could list contact information such as VoIP (voice over IP) dialing details or their instant messaging name, Telnic said.