By Simon Woodhead
Regular readers or SimCon attendees will have heard me talk about BTZero before. In short it is our initiative to remove BT from the routing of our traffic to the largest extent possible, in the interests of quality, economics, and my blood pressure – given being hit between the legs by a wrecking ball (I imagine) is a similarly pleasant experience to dealing with them.
This isn’t an act of blind spite but more analogous to peering in the IP-network world – delivering traffic directly to, or more closely to, its destination network. Sadly, most operators just dump traffic on the former incumbent and line their pockets with unregulated transit fees and other windfalls. Just like the UK ISPs in the 90’s who created LINX having got tired of expensive transatlantic cables and all UK Internet traffic tromboning the Atlantic, where we have a choice, we try very hard to avoid involving the incumbent.
We’re really pleased to have passed a land-mark traffic level now that I think is within about 5% of the maximum we can attain under the current regulatory regime. That means, if you call certain major mobile operators, we’ll deliver calls directly to them. If you call major (and some minor) alternative networks or wholesale providers, we’ll deliver calls directly too. Equally, when their customers call Simwood numbers, calls flow directly in to us without involving the former monopoly. This means best quality, a shorter more direct path (which reduces the privacy and security risk), and better economics. It also means when there are major issues on other networks, your calls have more options to flow around them. It is a win all round.
Now, sadly, under our current regulatory regime we operate what is called ‘onward routing’ for ported numbers. With onward routing calls must go to the Original Range Holder to then be forwarded on to the new provider. This needs to happen even where the alternative networks at either end have a direct interconnect. This is very unfortunate in so many ways where BT are the Original Range-holder and most significant amongst them is the fact that as the former monopoly they have the largest pool of ‘lost’ numbers. On this traffic, which they have to be sent, from customers they don’t have to customers that they’ve lost, they get to levy deregulated prices on both sides. Operators such as Simwood who are not a BT reseller, need to maintain our expensive SS7 capacity into BT just in order to receive such traffic from them. In doing so we incur all manner of random extra costs which I’ve come to refer to as monopoly taxes. We also lose money on every minute of an incoming call to a ported number as a result. That isn’t fair but is what it is.
So we’re in a great place now, and I’d argue ahead of most, but will continue battling against re-monopolisation and seeking a fair and transparent marketplace where calls can flow directly between the two ends for ultimate quality, security and economics. There’s an opportunity which should be coming up in a few months for us all to make a case and shape Ofcom’s plans for the next three years, and it is safe to say we’ve been preparing!