In 1996, the idea of letting customers move their cell phone numbers from one provider to another was revolutionary -- or, if you asked the carriers, impossible. But government pressure forced the move, and Mark Foster was the guy who figured out how to make it work technically. He helped form NeuStar to deliver the neutral database platform that enabled portability. He quickly realized the model was extensible to Internet interoperability.
That eureka moment led to involvement in standards development, including SAML 2.0 for identity management; the SIP-IX standard for interoperability of next-generation VoIP and data services; and the ENUM standard to map phone numbers to unique Internet addresses. All are key to enabling next-generation services across multiple carriers and service providers.
“We look at a lot of what we do as being the Bell Labs of this generation,” Foster says. He admires the Bell Labs tradition of entrepreneurial technology development in service to an entire industry, and says he sees a “world peace scenario” from NeuStar’s technology that lets a broad swath of service and content providers profit from the Internetization of the phone system. That would truly be an accomplishment.