GB2422751A - Managing incoming calls for mobile terminals roaming away from their home network and home time zone - Google Patents

Managing incoming calls for mobile terminals roaming away from their home network and home time zone Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2422751A
GB2422751A GB0526036A GB0526036A GB2422751A GB 2422751 A GB2422751 A GB 2422751A GB 0526036 A GB0526036 A GB 0526036A GB 0526036 A GB0526036 A GB 0526036A GB 2422751 A GB2422751 A GB 2422751A
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Prior art keywords
user
call
caller
time zone
method according
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GB0526036A
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GB0526036D0 (en
Inventor
John Roe
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Symbian Software Ltd
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Symbian Software Ltd
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Priority to GBGB0428097.0A priority Critical patent/GB0428097D0/en
Application filed by Symbian Software Ltd filed Critical Symbian Software Ltd
Publication of GB0526036D0 publication Critical patent/GB0526036D0/en
Publication of GB2422751A publication Critical patent/GB2422751A/en
Withdrawn legal-status Critical Current

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/436Arrangements for screening incoming calls, i.e. evaluating the characteristics of a call before deciding whether to answer it
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/24Presence management
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M1/00Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges
    • H04M1/66Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges with means for preventing unauthorised or fraudulent calling
    • H04M1/663Preventing unauthorised calls to a telephone set
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M1/00Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges
    • H04M1/72Substation extension arrangements; Cordless telephones, i.e. devices for establishing wireless links to base stations without route selecting
    • H04M1/725Cordless telephones
    • H04M1/72519Portable communication terminals with improved user interface to control a main telephone operation mode or to indicate the communication status
    • H04M1/72563Portable communication terminals with improved user interface to control a main telephone operation mode or to indicate the communication status with means for adapting by the user the functionality or the communication capability of the terminal under specific circumstances
    • H04M1/72569Portable communication terminals with improved user interface to control a main telephone operation mode or to indicate the communication status with means for adapting by the user the functionality or the communication capability of the terminal under specific circumstances according to context or environment related information
    • H04Q7/3883
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/18Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications in which the network application is adapted for the location of the user terminal
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M1/00Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges
    • H04M1/57Arrangements for indicating or recording the number of the calling subscriber at the called subscriber's set
    • H04M1/575Means for retrieving and displaying personal data about calling party
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M1/00Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges
    • H04M1/64Automatic arrangements for answering calls; Automatic arrangements for recording messages for absent subscribers; Arrangements for recording conversations
    • H04M1/65Recording arrangements for recording a message from the calling party
    • H04M1/6505Recording arrangements for recording a message from the calling party storing speech in digital form
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M1/00Substation equipment, e.g. for use by subscribers; Analogous equipment at exchanges
    • H04M1/72Substation extension arrangements; Cordless telephones, i.e. devices for establishing wireless links to base stations without route selecting
    • H04M1/725Cordless telephones
    • H04M1/72519Portable communication terminals with improved user interface to control a main telephone operation mode or to indicate the communication status
    • H04M1/72522With means for supporting locally a plurality of applications to increase the functionality
    • H04M1/72547With means for supporting locally a plurality of applications to increase the functionality with interactive input/output means for internally managing multimedia messages
    • H04M1/72552With means for supporting locally a plurality of applications to increase the functionality with interactive input/output means for internally managing multimedia messages for text messaging, e.g. sms, e-mail
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M2203/00Aspects of automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M2203/20Aspects of automatic or semi-automatic exchanges related to features of supplementary services
    • H04M2203/2072Schedules, e.g. personal calendars
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M2242/00Special services or facilities
    • H04M2242/14Special services or facilities with services dependent on location
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M2250/00Details of telephonic subscriber devices
    • H04M2250/58Details of telephonic subscriber devices including a multilanguage function
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W4/00Services specially adapted for wireless communication networks; Facilities therefor
    • H04W4/16Communication-related supplementary services, e.g. call-transfer or call-hold
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W76/00Connection management
    • H04W76/20Manipulation of established connections
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W8/00Network data management
    • H04W8/18Processing of user or subscriber data, e.g. subscribed services, user preferences or user profiles; Transfer of user or subscriber data

Abstract

Records are maintained of both the normal home network and time zone of the user of the device and also the network and time zone in which the device is operating. A comparison of these records, optionally in conjunction with other relevant information such as caller identity information (CID) or the user's contacts or address book information, is used for incoming call management. For example, a call received at an antisocial time in the user's current location is not passed to the user, with a recorded message being played to the caller, preferably in the language of the caller, specifying the time zone in which the user is currently located, along with the local time. The caller may then abort the call without disturbing the recipient, divert to voicemail, or continue with the call if it still considered sufficiently urgent with the information then known to the caller. The call management system may self cancel when the user returns to the home network and time zone.

Description

1 2422751 Method and Device for a Time Zone Based Call Handling System The

present invention relates to a method of call management in a wireless information device, and in particular to a method of managing calls in such devices using a time zone based call handling system.

The term wireless information device' used in this patent specification should be expansively construed to cover any kind of device with one or two way wireless information capabilities and includes without limitation radio telephones, smart phones, communicators, personal computers, computers and application specific devices. It includes devices able to communicate in any manner over any kind of network, such as GSM or UMTS, CDMA and WCDMA mobile radio, Bluetooth, IrDA etc. The present invention addresses the problems associated with inconveniently timed or expensive incoming phone calls, specifically those receiving on mobile communications devices while roaming away from a home network.

Ever since the telephone was invented, many people have had a love-hate relationship with it. As long ago as 1890, Mark Twain wrote in a Christmas greeting: "It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone." It is evident therefore, that ever since the invention of the telephone, the ability of the device to intrude into peoples' lives has been considered a drawback of the technology. Many people find the most irritating thing about telephones is the fact that calls have the capacity to interrupt whatever we are doing. One of the most irritating interruptions that a telephone call can generate is waking up a person when they are asleep.

Most people would agree that it is bad manners to gratuitously telephone another person in the middle of the night, or even to call after a certain hour in the late evening. When it is essential to make such a call, even if it is believed that the call might not actually be waking someone up but there is the possibility of doing so, it is very common to begin the conversation by apologising for telephoning at such a possibly anti-social hour.

This problem has become worse with the invention and widespread adoption of wireless communications devices such as mobile telephones. This is especially true for people who travel across time zones who make use of international roaming' facilities which enable mobile phone calls to be transferred between countries to reach the recipient wherever he or she might be. All GSM (Groupe Speciale Mobile) cellular phone networks are capable of utilizing this technology, as are many CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks. The basis of roaming services is that calls to mobile recipients are transparently routed across phone networks to their destination, wherever that might be in the world. The caller does not need to know anything about the call recipient's location.

As a result of the fact that it is not generally possible for a caller to know whether someone is roaming or is on their home network and hence in the same time zone, there is no way for the caller to know which time zone the recipient might be located in. The greater the difference between the time zone that a call recipient is in and the time zone that the caller thinks the recipient to be in, the greater the likelihood that a call will be made at an inconvenient or anti-social time to the call recipient.

The problem is especially acute for business travelers; in fact, where time zones are eight hours apart (US Pacific Time, GMT, and Singapore are all eight hours from each other) it is extremely likely that a call made during a caller's business hours will be at an antisocial time for the recipient; but the caller has no way of knowing this until the call is answered.

For many roaming recipients, the caller's ignorance of the recipient's location has another adverse effect, since the charge for the international portion of the call (from the recipient's home network to the recipient's current location) is generally borne by the recipient, not by the caller. It is usual for networks to charge premium rates for international roaming, which generally makes receiving calls on the roaming network a relatively expensive practice. When such a call comes at an unsocial hour in the time zone concerned, having to pay a relatively large amount to receive it may be seen by many as adding insult to injury.

It is also worth noting that other developments in telephone technology exacerbate the problem; for example, many terrestrial telephone networks now allow transparent call forwarding or diversion. Many people who possess both terrestrial and mobile phones activate this mechanism when they are away from their home base, and all calls to their landline are then automatically and transparently diverted and forwarded to the mobile number.

So, calling a non-mobile number likewise offers no guarantee that the recipient will not be abroad and in a different time zone to the one that the caller expects.

In general, the solutions to this problem which are currently offered by the mobile telephone manufacturers and the network operators are fairly basic blocking mechanisms. At the device level, a user has the option to switch the telephone off, or to alter the ring tone, which may either be switched off or altered to something quiet enough not to wake a sleeper but distinctive enough to alert someone who is already awake. At the network level, it is possible for calls to be diverted, either to a completely different number or to a voicemail facility. There is also a common strategy which combines both phone and network functionality, which is to divert calls only if they are unanswered or if the phone is off.

More specific blocking solutions have been attempted on programmable smart phones, such as those running the advanced Symbian OSTM operating system from Symbian Software Ltd. For example, lolan Software offer products for Symbian OS operating system handsets which are able to screen calls and filter them based on caller identity information (CID). This process is described in greater detail at http://www.iolansoftware. fi/products.html. Other blocking solutions aimed at advanced phones are possible, such as limiting calls to certain times of the day.

Non blocking mechanisms are also available, such as relying on presence information by which a user can publish or broadcast his or her availability (see http://www.openmobilealliance.org/tech/wgcommittees/pag.html for more information on presence). The Presence facility is discussed further below.

The general call blocking solutions described above certainly solve the problem of avoiding calls which either come in at unsocial hours or will involve the recipient in extra costs. However, they do so at the cost of losing one of most essential aspects of the functionality of the mobile phone itself, which is to serve as a mechanism which allows for alerts and interruptions at the discretion of the caller. The truth is that most people do not generally turn off their telephones at night; in fact, it is very common for people, and especially business travelers, to have phones switched on in their bedrooms at night precisely so that they can be awakened in cases of urgency or emergency.

The mechanism on which such persons rely to avoid being woken up at antisocial hours is the good sense of those people who have their telephone number; they trust potential callers not to make phone calls in the middle of the night, knowing that such a call would wake them up. And, as has been pointed out above, the reason why this strategy of reliance on the caller does not work when the recipient is roaming across different time zones or networks with a mobile is because the caller, unless provided with specific information to the contrary, often does not know that the person they are calling will be receiving the call in a different time zone and therefore at a different time, or at extra cost. It therefore follows that if a caller was informed of the fact that an intended recipient of a call was in a different time zone or network, and if the recipient knew that a call would wake them up or cost them a lot of money, then the strategy of reliance on the good sense of the caller However, none of the blocking solutions described above address this point.

They all replace the mechanism of reliance and trust in the caller's good sense and knowledge of when their call is really important with general or specific blocking mechanism at the device or network level which by their very nature are incapable of knowing when calls are important and when they are not. People make many types of phone calls, some of which are important or urgent, and others of which are relatively trivial or can wait until a later time, It is fallacious to use software products which screen calls using caller ID as a solution to the roaming problem identified above when the origin of the call is not relevant to the subject of the call.

It is true that the publication of presence information is a partial solution since it enables a caller to find out whether or not a recipient is available for various types of call; clearly, if the caller knows that it is likely that the recipient is in a different time zone and is probably asleep, or that the recipient would be paying to receive a call at expensive roaming rates, then the mechanism of reliance on the caller's good sense once again becomes viable.

However, notwithstanding the fact that presence technology is still in its infancy, and is not in widespread use, the key problem with this solution is that all it really does is to push the problem back a level. It is true that if the caller accesses the presence information of the recipient it becomes possible to rely on their good sense once again; but the key question is, how does a caller know whether presence information needs to be accessed in the first place? The answer, of course, is that there is no way that the caller can know this, and that the only logical way that presence technology can solve the problem would be for it to be used for every call, in the same way that instant messaging presence information is published to the originator for every message. However, voice technology is different from messaging technology, and uses different networks, and to retrieve published presence information would be both time consuming and expensive. Effectively, it would impose a fixed overhead of both time and money on both users and network operators for every call made just to solve a problem affecting a small number of calls.

This is unsatisfactory in practice, and would rightly be rejected by network operators and phone manufacturers as well as by phone users. Furthermore, it would not even guarantee success, as it would be liable to failure in cases where the recipient failed to publish accurate presence data, and also in cases where the caller did not read the published information.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an improved method for call management and handling.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of managing incoming telephone calls on a wireless communications device, the method comprising a. maintaining a first record comprising the normal home network and time zone of the user of the device; b. maintaining a further record comprising the network and time zone in which the device is operating; and c. using the first and further records to manage incoming calls to the device.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a telecommunications device arranged to implement a method according to the first aspect.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a telephone network arranged to implement a method according to the first aspect.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided an operating system arranged to cause a telecommunications device to operate in accordance with a method of the first aspect.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of further example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Figure 1 shows, schematically, how a call handling method according to the present invention may be implemented; Figure 2 shows a call handling method in accordance with the present invention; Figure 3 shows an embodiment of an out of hours decision tree for use with the method of figure 2; Figure 4 shows an embodiment of a caller identification decision tree for use with the method of figure 2; Figure 5 shows an embodiment of a call action decision tree for use with the method of figure 2; and Figure 6 shows an embodiment of an automatic call handling system according to the present invention which accounts for a user of a call handling device moving between time zones.

The system of the present invention arises from an analysis of the concerns outlined above for existing call handling and is based on the perception that a solution to these concerns should be based on the same methodology as a caller would have used in deciding whether to proceed with the call or not, had the caller known the implications arising from the location of the recipient.

A further desirable characteristic of such a system is that it should be automatic; this means that it should require no active or special intervention on the part of the caller or of the recipient.

A highly desirable characteristic of such an automatic method is that it should also be intelligently adaptive; this means that it should not attempt to interfere with the process of making calls when it is unlikely that the problems associated with roaming will need to be considered by the caller. Any automatic method that interferes with normal nonproblematic calls is unacceptable from the user's point of view. As described above in connection with using presence, it is not acceptable to solve a problem for a relatively small proportion of calls made to a relatively small proportion of users by making it more difficult, expensive and time consuming for all users to make all calls.

The present invention fulfils all the criteria for a good solution to the problems outlined above. It consists of a method for call management for a mobile telephone device, such that it is possible * to keep a record of both the normal home network and time zone of the user of the device; * to keep a record of the network and time zone in which the device is operating; and * to use this information, in conjunction with other relevant information available to the device such as CID lists or contacts information of the user, as input into an incoming call management system.

Figure 1 shows the general call handling method context of the present invention where it can be seen that the invention can be implemented entirely within the network infrastructure, where it is transparent to both the originating terminal and the receiving terminal. Alternatively, the invention may be implemented entirely within the receiving terminal, in which case it is transparent to the network. It should be noted that with either implementation, the invention is completely independent of the nature and type of the originating terminal.

This device is provided with a framework or system enabling the user to define a set of criteria on his/her telephone that will govern the handling of incoming calls according to whether the device is operating in its home network or in its home time zone. The user is able to specify that incoming calls can be filtered depending a number of criteria which may include the following: * whether the user is currently operating on their home network or not; if they are not operating on their home network, they are roaming, and would be liable to pay extra charges for the network forwarding incoming calls from their home network to their then current local network.

* whether the user is in their home time zone or not; if they are not in their home time zone, then there is a possibility of calls occurring at unsocial hours.

An embodiment of this basic call handling method is shown in figure 2. The method shown in figure 2 includes three decision trees through which an incoming call originating in any fixed or mobile network must pass before being connected to a recipient device. As can be seen from figure 2, these three decision trees are called o out of hours' decision tree o caller identification' decision tree o call action' decision tree.

Whether or not an incoming call is connected to a recipient device, rejected, or diverted is dependent on the settings of the recipient device, as defined by the user of that device, and the output of any of the above decision trees. In all cases (connection, diversion or rejection) a record is maintained of the caller ID, call details, and action taken for use in future decisions which might need to be made regarding the recipient device.

The out of hours decision tree is shown in detail in figure 3. In this stage of the decision procedure, firstly it is determined whether the receiving device is in a different time zone to its normal' or home time zone. If the time zone for the receiving device does not differ from the home time zone, the incoming call is connected as normal. However, if it is determined that the receiving device is in a time zone different to the home time zone, the process then decides whether or not the time is determined to be "out of hours"; i.e. whether or not the actual time is acceptable for the call to be passed through to the recipient device. If the time is considered not to be out of hours (for example the determined time zone, whilst being different to the home time zone, may have only a small time shift from the home time zone), the call is connected as normal. However, if the time is considered to be out of hours, the process continues to the "caller identification" decision tree, as shown in figure 4.

In this stage of the process, the system is seeking to determine whether or not the caller falls within a category of callers which the device user has specified as requiring a level of service other than straightforward call rejection because the incoming call is in an "out of hours" time frame for the recipient device user. Hence, as can be seen from figure 4, the system first considers whether the caller is in the phone book of the recipient device. If the answer is yes', the call is connected. If the answer is no', it is next determined whether the caller identity matches a white list' of callers stored in the system. Again, if the answer is yes' the call is connected, but if the answer is no' it is then determined whether or not the caller has received previously information regarding the time zone of the recipient. If the answer is yes' , the call is connected because the system considers that because the caller is aware of the recipient time zone and is still trying to connect, the call content must be considered sufficiently urgent by the caller to warrant connection even when the time zone consideration has been taken into account. If the caller has not previously received the recipient time zone information, the call request is passed to the "call action" decision tree, which is shown in figure 5.

By this stage of the process, the incoming call has been determined to be out of hours and it has not been accepted by any of the previous decision making processes. If the device user has configured the system to reject all such calls, the call is rejected, with a message and/or other notification, such as an SMS message, being sent to the caller.

If the user has not configured rejection of all such calls, it is then determined whether the user has optionally configured diversion of all such calls. If the answer is yes' the incoming call is diverted to voicemail, or another number as has been decided by the user, as shown in figure 5.

If the user has not configured diversion of all such calls, such that the caller decides how all such calls will be handled, the caller is presented with options on how to proceed, i.e. connect, divert, or end the call, with or without a message or notification. If the user has not configured "caller decides" then the network or recipient device may apply user defaults to handle the incoming call.

It should be noted that information on local network identity and local time zone is currently part of the specifications for all GSM and CDMA networks via their NITZ (Network Identity and Time Zone) services and is also part of the 3GPP and 3GPP2 specification which govern future 3G services.

These two items are logically distinct. It is quite possible for the current time zone to be the same as the home time zone but for the device not to be in the home network. Users roaming in places where several contiguous countries share identical time zones (e.g. within Europe) will often find this, as will users roaming any international borders in a north/south direction (e.g. between the US and Canada). It is also possible for the home network to remain the same but for the time zone to be different; this can be the case when traveling in a large country with national phone networks, such as the USA, Australia or Russia.

Therefore, the essence of this invention lies not in the retrieval of the NITZ data from the network, but in the comparison of this data with the data previously recorded by the user concerning the home time zone and home network.

If both the current time zone and current network are identical to the home time zone and the home network, then no additional call management steps need to be taken.

If the current time zone is different to the home time zone, or if the current network is different to the home network, then the data is automatically collated (either in the network infrastructure or the handset) and submitted to a decision tree.

This decision tree would take into account, for example, the time that the call was being received; clearly, there would be a case for a call arriving at 0300 local time to be treated differently to a call arriving at 1500 local time. Other types of data that the decision tree may selectively take into account is discussed below.

Among the possible actions could be: 1. reject the call outright 2. reject the call with a message to the caller indicating that that the recipient is either not on their home network or is in a different time zone, or both. The actual network, or the time zone and/or local time of the recipient, can also be provided to the caller as appropriate.

3. auto-answer the call, with an identical message to the caller as described in action 2 above, but offering the caller the choice of whether to ring off, leave a voicemail for the user, or decide the call is sufficiently important to be connected anyway.

It is clear that in the specific circumstances described above, option I is a blanket blocking mechanism and hence may be regarded as unsatisfactory.

Option 2 may also be regarded as unsatisfactory because, in essence, it is also a blanket blocking mechanism, but provides some feedback information to the caller as to why the call has not been connected as expected.

However, option 3 provides a solution to the concerns outlined above because what it does is to again make possible the mechanism of reliance on the caller's good sense. Once a caller knows that their call will either inconvenience the recipient or cause the recipient unexpected expense, the good sense of the caller can once again be relied upon to discriminate between the urgent and important' type of call on the one hand, which the caller may decide to proceed with, and the transitory and trivial' type of call on the other, which the caller may decide to abort. This option also fulfils the additional requirement of being both automatic and requiring no user intervention. Furthermore, it is also intelligently adaptive, in that it has no effect on non-problematic calls.

The inclusion of additional information to the decision tree can provide the processes described above with additional functionality.

The principal source of additional information is caller identification, which is normally provided by the network. The prior art referred to above from lolan software teaches how this data can be used as a method of screening incoming calls. However, the lolan software does not disclose or suggest the possibility of combining CID information with the comparison of NITZ data, as enabled by the present invention.

Thus, with this embodiment of the present invention, combining either options I or 2 with CID data can effectively change these actions from what can be regarded as pure blocking mechanisms to genuine strategies that again enable the user to rely on the caller's good sense as to whether or not the call should proceed and be passed to the caller.

Let us first consider option 2. It will be recalled that this option rejects calls with a message to the caller indicating that the recipient is either not on the home network or is in a different time zone, or both. However, once CID data is taken into account, the telephone device is enabled to keep a record of the identity of callers to whom the message has been already been relayed. The device will then automatically be able to discriminate between callers who are aware of the necessary information needed in order to judge whether their particular call is inconvenient or expensive, and those who are unaware of this information. The message going out to the caller can then be amended to tell the particular caller that if he/she wishes to continue with the call, he/she should redial, in which case the device will know that some judgment has been applied by the caller in calling again, and thus that this further call from that caller can be relied on and passed through to the recipient.

Variations of this strategy are possible. For example, entries in the record may be time-expired, such that if a caller calls back relatively quickly, i.e. before being time expired, the call is passed through; but if the caller calls back a day later, i.e. after being time expired, then the original message is played and the call is again rejected.

It is also possible for option 3 above to be modified by utilising CID data. In this case, the caller record time-expiry strategy could be used in a way such that callers who had previously received the auto-answer message could be treated as trustworthy' callers, so that the second call from that caller, and possibly all subsequent calls within a predefined time period, may be passed through to the recipient without the message intercept.

In the case of option 2 and option 3, the message given to the caller may be either a standard message or one provided by the user of the mobile telephone device. Messages may also be customized using caller ID; for example, the country location and hence the probable native language of the caller may be identified, so that, for example, calls from New York can be presented with a message in English, calls from Shanghai can be presented with a message in Mandarin and calls from Paris can be presented with a message in French.

With regard to option 1, it will be recalled that this rejected all calls. By combining this strategy with CID data, it becomes possible to make use of a white list' of callers who are excluded from the call rejections that would otherwise occur when the retrieval of NITZ data from the network did not match the home settings. The numbers on the list may comprise people who already had been advised that the user would be roaming between networks or time zones, and whose judgment can therefore be trusted. These may be people on the contacts database held on the device by the user.This method may be preferable to options 2 or 3 on security grounds if the telephone user does not wish it to be known by any caller that he/she is roaming, and therefore likely to be away from home, but nevertheless still wants protection against inconvenient or expensive incoming calls from those callers most likely to try contact.

A process for the automatic control of call handling according to the present invention is shown in figure 6. From the NITZ data of the time zone of the recipient device, the system is able to determine when the user has moved from one time zone to another. If the user has moved from the home time zone to a time zone other than the home zone, the timezone based call handling system can be automatically enabled. Likewise, if it is sensed that the user has returned to the home time zone, the system can be disabled, as shown in figure 6.

If the user moves from one non-home' time zone to another non-home' time zone, the system remains active. In this instance, callers who have called the user when in the previous time zone are sent updated information notifying of the user's new time zone, and the caller list can be updated and entries removed as appropriate. For example, a caller who was local to the previous time zone may have been listed as a caller whose calls were connected because the caller was located in the same time zone as the user. But, because this caller is now in a different time zone, the decision tree processes might be considered appropriate to apply because of the time zone difference arising from the user moving time zones.

Hence, in all of the above scenarios, the list of callers may be automatically deleted from the telephone device once the user has returned to his/her home network and home time zone. Prior to deletion, text messages or text messages or voicemails could be sent to all those numbers on the list notifying them that the user of the device was once again in home' territory.

In this manner, the call management system of the present invention is provided with the additional benefit of a self-cancellation ability.

The use of caller ID can also be used to refine the method used in traversing the decision tree referred to above. For example, the CID can be matched against a database of area codes and time zones held on the device, and where the call is detected as being from a person in the same time zone, the decision tree may decide to pass the call through to the device user. As an example, if a call is received at 3am when the caller is asleep in bed, but is coming from someone for whom the local time is also the middle of the night, it might be decided that the judgment of the caller in making the call should be trusted and hence the call subject must be of sufficient importance to cause the caller to call at that time. Thus the call is passed through to the device user.

Complex decision trees can be built up using many different sources of data in addition to the ones already described, such as where the caller is located geographically, whether the caller as well as the recipient is also roaming, whether the caller is already in the contacts list or address book of the phone, how much the call is going to cost etc. There could also be additional special cases programmed into the device, such as a call originating from a phone from the same original time zone but currently roaming in the same time zone as the recipient and which is also in the address book of the phone; in this instance it might be assume that such a call is from a traveling companion of the user and therefore passed to the device.

Another useful special case may be to unreservedly allow incoming calls from numbers to which the device had made outgoing calls while in the current network and time zone.

Those skilled in the art will be able to further extend these ideas as required, once the principle of combining additional data with the comparison of NITZ data retrieved from the network with the previously data recorded by the user concerning the home time zone and home network. The example of additional data combinations given here are provided for illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of this invention, which extends to the combination of any data on or accessible to the telephone with the NITZ comparisons described above.

There are two principal ways in which the method of the present invention may be employed. It can be provided either * in the terminal software on a handset, in which case it makes the handset more attractive to buyers, especially frequent travelers, and provides a unique selling point for the handset manufacturer; or * in the infrastructure of a cellular telephone network, with the telephone used solely as an input and activation mechanism, in which case it makes the network more user friendly and provides a unique selling point for the network operator.

While the description given here has largely been in terms of a mobile telephone handset, because this is simpler to describe and visualise.

However, the invention may also be implemented in the infrastructure of a cellular telephone network, and such an implementation is arguably more powerful and effective because the method can then be applied to all telephone devices using the network.

Those skilled in the art will readily perceive the equivalence between aspects of the invention described in terms of terminal software and similar aspects which may be described in terms of software running in the network infrastructure. For example, they will be aware that because all incoming calls are routed through a mobile telephone's home network, even when roaming, the home network is therefore able to fully implement this invention even where the local network has no knowledge of it. They will further be aware that when a user is not roaming but is crossing time zones on the same network, the network infrastructure will be aware of the location and therefore the time zone of the user by virtue of the fact that it always has knowledge of the cell in which the user's phone is registered for communication to occur.

Consequently the disclosures in this invention are fully applicable to implementation both in terminal software and in network infrastructure.

Other embodiments of either this invention as a whole or in part will also readily be perceived by those skilled in the art; for example, the methods disclosed can readily be adapted to the task of blocking inconveniently timed calls on landlines.

The methods disclosed in this invention can also be modified without departing from it. For example, in cases where NITZ data for some reason cannot be automatically retrieved from the network, this invention may be implemented by allowing users to input such data, either in whole or in part, manually either via their telephones or some other mechanism. Although this is not a preferred embodiment (as it is neither automatic nor as failure-proof) it is certainly possible.

This invention is not limited to any particular type of user interface for its implementation, which could vary from using dialogues or checkboxes on the device itself to manual setup by a skilled operator using data provided by the user over a voice link.

Thus, the present invention discloses a method of managing potentially incoming calls on mobile phones which may be roaming away from their home network and home time zone, based on a system which maintains a record of both the normal home network and time zone of the user of the phone and also a record of the network and time zone in which it is operating; a comparison of these records, possibly in conjunction with other relevant information available to the device, is used as input into the incoming call management system, which then takes appropriate action. For example, a call received at an antisocial time in the user's current location can be answered automatically with a recorded message being played to the caller specifying the time zone in which the recipient is currently located, perhaps along with the local time, perhaps in the language of the caller, with an option to allow the caller to either ring off without disturbing the recipient, divert to voicemail, or continue with the call if still considered urgent with the information then known to the caller.

It will be appreciated from the above description that the present invention provides several advantages over the known mechanisms for call management. These advantages include: * It insulates users traveling away from their home networks and home time zone from receipt of intrusive, inconvenient or expensive incoming calls, but without call rejection.

* It minimises the chances of screening out important calls.

* It provides a fully automatic mechanism that needs no user intervention in order to work correctly whatever the location of the user.

* It is capable of self-cancellation when no longer necessary.

* It is extensible and can make use of many different types of input data to help discriminate between calls.

* If implemented on a handset, it makes the handset more attractive to buyers, especially those who are frequent travelers.

* If implemented on a network, it makes the network more user friendly and provides an additional selling point for that network.

* If implemented in an operating system for a device it provides an additional and good differentiator for that system.

* For users, it provides added convenience and added value to their phone's features, particularly for enterprise applications.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it will be appreciated that modifications may be effected whilst remaining within the scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.

Claims (30)

  1. Claims: A method of managing incoming telephone calls on a wireless
    communications device, the method comprising a. maintaining a first record comprising the normal home network and time zone of the user of the device; b. maintaining a further record comprising the network and time zone in which the device is operating; and c. using the first and further records to manage incoming calls to the device.
  2. 2. A method according to claim I in which a decision on how to manage an incoming telephone call is taken on the basis of a. whether the incoming call is received when the device is in its home network; or b. whether the incoming call is received when the device is in its home time zone; or c. a combination of a and b above.
  3. 3. A method according to claim 2 wherein the call is passed through to the device if, at the time of the call, the device is in its home network and its home time zone.
  4. 4. A method according to claim 2 wherein the call is passed through to the device if, at the time of the call, the device is not in its home time zone and the time in the time zone in which the device is located is determined as acceptable for receipt of an incoming call by the user.
  5. 5. A method according to any one of claims 2 to 4 wherein an incoming call that is not passed through to the user is rejected.
  6. 6. A method according to any one of claims 2 to 4 wherein an incoming call that is not passed through to the user is rejected with the caller being notified that the user is not located in the home time zone or the home network, or both.
  7. 7. A method according to any one of claims 2 to 4 wherein an incoming call is managed not by passing the call through to the user and ringing the device but by notifying the caller that the user is not located in the home time zone or the home network, or both, and then enabling the caller to a. terminate the call; b. leave a voice message; or c. call the user by ringing the device.
  8. 8. A method according to claim 6 or 7 in which caller notification is provided by an audible message in the form of a standard message or a message recorded by the user of the device.
  9. 9. A method according to claim 6 or 7 in which caller notification comprises a text message or other visible means.
  10. 10. A method according to any one of the preceding claims further comprising using caller identity information (CID) information supplied by the home network to manage incoming calls to the device.
  11. II. A method according to claim 10 wherein a call is passed through to the user if the CID of the caller matches an entry on a list of CIDs compiled by the user and comprising the identity of callers trusted by the user to make calls to the device.
  12. 12. A method according to claim 10 wherein a call is passed through to the user if the CID of the caller matches an entry on a history list of CIDs who have received a notification that the user is not located in the home time zone or home network, or both.
  13. 13. A method according to claim 12 wherein entries on the history list are automatically expired after a predetermined time period, which may be a set period or a period determined by the user.
  14. 14. A method according to any one of claims 10 to 12 wherein one or more entries on the CID list is/are used to send notifications when the user a. moves from one network and/or time zone to another; or b. returns to the home network and time zone.
  15. 15. A method according to any one of claims 10 to 14 wherein one or more entries on the CID list are deleted when the user returns to the home network and time zone.
  16. 16. A method according to any one of claims 10 to 14 wherein the CID is analysed by the incoming call management system to identify the country of the caller.
  17. 17. A method according to claim 16 wherein the country of the caller is used to determine the language of any notification issued to the caller.
  18. 18. A method according to any one of claims 10 to 17 wherein an incoming call is passed through to the user when the CID indicates that it originates from the same time zone as the user.
  19. 19. A method of any one of claims 10 to 18 wherein an incoming call is passed through to the user when the CID indicates that the home network of the caller is the same as the current network of the user and also that the caller is listed as a contact in contacts information or an address book of the user.
  20. 20. A method according to any one of claims 10 to 19 wherein an incoming call is passed through to the user when the CID indicates that the user has made an outgoing call to that CID during the period in which the user has been in their current time zone or network or both.
  21. 21. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the user is enabled to set up incoming call management features by means of normal user input methods available on the wireless communications device.
  22. 22. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the incoming call management features are set up by an operator on behalf of the user.
  23. 23. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein local network and time zone information is retrieved automatically from the phone network.
  24. 24. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the management of incoming calls is implemented on the wireless communications device.
  25. 25. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the management of incoming calls is implemented in the infrastructure of a mobile telephone network.
  26. 26. A method according to any one of the preceding claims wherein incoming calls can be managed on a non-mobile communications device.
  27. 27. A telecommunications device arranged to implement a method according to any one of claims I to 26.
  28. 28. A telephone network arranged to implement a method according to any one of claims I to 26.
  29. 29. An operating system arranged to cause a communications device to operate in accordance with a method as claimed in any one of claims I to 26.
  30. 30. An operating system according to claim 29 wherein the communications device comprises a wireless communications device.
GB0526036A 2004-12-22 2005-12-21 Managing incoming calls for mobile terminals roaming away from their home network and home time zone Withdrawn GB2422751A (en)

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WO2006067449A1 (en) 2006-06-29
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