Porting changes (inc. new policy)

By Simon Woodhead

Update: Please see our FAQ on the below and our invitation to other operators.

Two years ago we published our Porting Policy in an attempt to deal with the problem of what we define as “wholesale ports” within the framework of a fundamentally broken process. That announcement is here, but we’re today updating it again.

New policy

We port massively more (20x in July) numbers in to Simwood than out, which shows our customers are winning the battle with ‘me too’. Ports in cost more than we charge for them, despite the efficiencies of automation and scale. Sitting for hours on hold to an Indian call centre can only get ‘so’ efficient and, likewise, trying to educate BT resellers that they really do have to allow porting by sending them their own reseller handbook, takes time. However, you’re winning customers and we’re benefitting from that in the bigger picture so frustrating as it is, we’re happy doing it.

Likewise, very rarely our customers lose end users. Often this is to each other, but occasionally it is to ‘me too’. We’ve long viewed the cost of this as a necessary evil but struggled with it being artificially inflated by abuse, that abuse coming in the form of “wholesale ports”. Reseller CPs (you or indeed yours) thinking that the porting process can be abused, often without even the knowledge of the end user, to improve their margins. We, like many of our competitors, used to simply prohibit these but that lead to arguments and frankly blatant lies such as “well, I’m the end user” and even “well, I’ll just make up an LOA then”. That is unpleasant, unnecessary, and fundamentally unfair.

Our objection to wholesale ports may seem odd, but consider that a given number on-net for which you are paying us money uses one channel per call, whilst a number ported out has no per number income yet uses two channels per call – that’s twice the cost for none of the revenue, forever. That is before the administrative overhead of doing them, which we estimate at £150 per number; although this could be in part due to how few we do! That is fair for genuine end user ports, but for us, and ultimately our loyal customers, to be paying for someone else to abuse the system feels wrong. For once, Ofcom would appear to agree with us.

Our solution has been to allow a natural level of churn, above which all ports were chargeable, and that led to a significant improvement, but still hasn’t addressed the fundamental problem. We’re therefore changing it again in order to simplify the process, and be fairer to our loyal customers.

The new policy confirms that all ports out will be chargeable. Wholesale ports are still prohibited but abuse that slips through the net one-way or another will be charged. Genuine end user ports will also be chargeable at the wholesale level, but, and this is a huge but: anything we charge for an export will sit as a credit for future imports. This means those that are abusing the system will cover a fraction of our costs of enabling them, whilst those loyal engaged customers who are steadily winning business from elsewhere and trusting us with it will find it cost neutral. In the rare event of a loyal customer losing a large customer which previously may have tripped the 5% threshold, they’ll still charged, but it’ll be fully offset (automatically) against the cost of future imports.

This feels far closer to being fair on loyal customers and us within the constraints of a broken process and competitive constraints. We hope therefore loyal customers will welcome it.

The new policy is here.

Improving imports

Our porting team are really good, and compared to many other UK-based teams, disproportionately large. We’ve always treated porting as a wholesale offering though; in other words, we charge for the process, not the outcome. We think it is time this changed and so we’re making changes that over the coming months will see fewer ports rejected to you for resubmission. We’re doing this progressively and carefully so do not expect no rejections overnight, but our goal is to be able to offer you ‘no port no fee’, with us dealing with range-holder shenanigans for you.

Hopefully, this’ll improve our collective wins further. Let’s make the 20:1 ratio 200:1 and win the war on ‘me too’ commoditised rubbish peddled by spivs. End users deserve so much better.