OFCOM’s Consultation on Number Portability Charging

OFCOM’s Narrowband Review, effective earlier this year, led to incoming calls on ported numbers coming into Simwood being loss-making per minute, as we warned during its consultative period that it would. We made our views very clear on this at the time, but are pleased OFCOM are apparently seeking to remedy this inequality in favour of the incumbent in a new consultation on porting charges.

As previously we have responded to this seeking to represent ourselves and our customers. Our response is copied below.

OFCOM GC18 Porting Charges Consultation

ABOUT SIMWOOD

Simwood is a Network Operator offering wholesale services to over 500 Communication Providers, of all sizes, but mostly among the younger, more innovative and technically heavy providers. All our customers operate switching equipment but this is almost exclusively VoIP based, with Simwood acting as a gateway to the traditional PSTN and offering rich control of services through our API.

RESPONSE

We expressed concern in our response to the Narrowband Review (“WNBMR”) that OFCOM’s proposed measures would lead to calls to ported-in numbers being loss-making for parties other than the incumbent and this has been so since those measures were implemented in early 2014. We have had no choice but to operate these services at a substantial loss per minute since that time, pending a review. We therefore welcome these proposals and urge OFCOM to implement them without further delay, although note with renewed concern that the Consultation has no proposed implementation date. Were it possible, we would also welcome a retrospective adjustment for the benefit attributed to the incumbent by the WNBMR in the intervening period, and consider this necessary to reflect OFCOM’s position as a neutral arbiter promoting fair competition.

We would also highlight how poorly the UK fixed-line porting regime compares not only in international circles but also to UK mobile portability and urge OFCOM to address what can only be described as “third world” porting processes, which afford anti-competitive behaviour. OFCOM’s refusal to process a Complaint we made in this regard could be argued to be encouraging this, were it to be representative. One positive outcome of the WNBMR however is the affirmation of range-holders having Significant Market Power, which at least affords us some slim prospect of resolution under the Competition Act of 1998. It is disappointing and embarrassing though that our only remaining recourse is outside the regulator who’s rules we allege are being breached but who is unwilling to intervene.

Specifically, we have also sought clarification on the role and status of British Telecommunications PLC’s (“BT”) IPExchange (“IPX”) service. We consider it to be an unregulated managed service, not a regulated interconnect, but believe it introduces significant inequality into the regulated marketplace. IPX customers are able to leverage BT’s porting agreements to win business, but the reverse is not true. IPX customers have claimed a technical inability to export off-IPX (whilst we understand from BT that they do), by virtue of profile tend to be unfamiliar with GNP establishment and in our experience this leads to potential for abuse to the detriment of consumers. In the interests of fair and transparent competition and for the good of the consumer, we again ask OFCOM to recognise publicly that IPX is not a regulated interconnect, but rather an unregulated managed service, and to Direct that any number ranges hosted on it be included under any porting agreement in place with BT. This would enable parity and ensure that consumers could leave IPX-hosted CP’s as easily as they can join them.

In summary we’re very appreciative of OFCOM looking to address the imbalances caused by the WNBMR but hope to see retrospective adjustment, clarity on timing and for this to be the start of more extensive action in respect of number portability.