Business ofcom Regs voip

New EU rules on number porting has get out clause for fixed line providers

Ofcom is currently consulting on changes to EU law applicable to Communications Providers that in theory will force providers to port numbers within 24 hours of being asked.

Sounds great but fixed line providers have been chucked a get out clause that adds that a subscriber line has to be ‘ready for service’ before being appropriate to port.

This means business as usual for the likes of BT whose archaic manual porting system requires a complete overhaul anjd which often leaves business custoemrs in the lurch.

Coincidentally the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association, ITSPA has recently commissioned an independent report outlining the options for the UK Communications industry in respect of number porting. It isn’t just a technical issue. There are contractual bottlenecks as well with each CP having to independently negotiate separate porting contracts with every other CP.

I will share the output when I get is sometime in March. In the meantime Ofcom seems content to let sleeping dogs lie and accept that as long as the letter of the EU law is met, (but not the spirit) then that is all fine and handy. This might make Ofcom’s life easier but is a disservice to UK business that has to put up with lengthy delays with porting their telephone numbers.

Details of the Ofcom consultation, scheduled to last 6 weeks, are available here. Interestingly CPs are also required to offered disabled access to Emergency Services via sms text service. I will need to investigate this further but if applicable to ITSPS this is certainly something very new for them to get to grips with.

The new laws have to be in place by 25th May 2011.

Business voip

VoIP number porting – telecom industry needs to sort it out

VoIP number porting as a problem has been brought to the fore this year as Cable & Wireless and Tesco closed down their services. In the case of the former it was the service of one of its acquired businesses and Tesco were let down by Australian provider Freshtel who retrenched to their home market.

Both sets of customers had a torrid time trying to find new homes for their services and numbers. This was because there were no porting agreements in place for either service provider.

At the recent Parliament and Internet Conference a C&W/Thus customer Gareth Jamie of eoffice turned up to tell the audience of the problems he had had. It took him 45 days to find a new home for his VoIP and £10k of credits for unhappy customers of his managed workspace business.

This is a measurable effect of the problem which is that whilst the larger telcos will happily port numbers between themselves there are a further 300 or so small operators with their own number ranges with who they don’t have

Business Regs voip

Voice over IP – a techno-regulatory view

Here is an article written by Trefor Davies and Louise Lancaster in the Institute of Telecoms Professionals’ Journal and published this month.

It covers a bit of the history of VoIP technology, where it has evolved to today and some current issues such as number porting and naked DSL.


For more information on the ITP you can visit their website at

Business ofcom voip

Scandalous delays by Openreach harming consumers and competition

If you want to port your existing telephone number to a VoIP provider (Internet Telephony Service Provider/ITSP) you can do, by and large. If this number is the number of the analogue phone line that carries the broadband connection that the VoIP service runs over you are knackered because the minute the number is ported the analogue line is ceased and therefore the broadband will stop working.

Of course you can’t run VoIP on a broadband connection that isn’t a broadband connection because it isn’t working. How good is that?

If consumers want to move away from an incumbent telco (for incumbent read slow moving, lacking innovation

Business ofcom Regs voip

Ofcom’s unwillingness to enforce porting regulations – guest blog post

Louise Lancaster is a communications lawyer specialising in interconnect, regulation and public affairs. Having qualified as a solicitor in 1994, Louise held a variety of legal, regulatory and public policy roles in the telecoms industry before forming Ayres End Consulting in 2003. She now provides commercial, strategic and compliance advice to communications providers and trade associations. Her website is at

It is widely accepted that the routing of calls to ported numbers in the UK is based on an antiquated process. Calls to ported numbers are required to route via the original Range Holder, and then onward to the current service provider (rather than being directly routed to the current SP). To achieve this, the Range Holder and the new service provider must engage in drawn out negotiations to agree conveyance charges and routing plans. These typically take six months to a year, but can take longer.

If I wish to change my service provider I will not want the move to be delayed by an inability to port my number. But

Business ofcom voip

Freshtel leaves Tesco in lurch

Tesco has been using Freshtel as the underlying provider of its VoIP service. Unfortunately the Australian VoIP company announced in March that it was closing its UK operations – something to do with an operating loss of $1.25m.

Tesco service is now apparently scheduled to be shut down on the 27th April. Nobody knows how many customers are affected but the Tesco was aggressively marketing the service for some considerable time so it could be quite a few.

The biggest problem is that Freshtel, being an Australian company and moreover  not being an ITSPA (Internet Telephony Service Providers Association) member, did not have any porting arrangements with anyone in the UK. Ofcom are looking into it but time is short.

I understand that Tesco is talking to both Virgin Media and Cable and Wireless to try and find a solution.  If one of them already hosts the Freshtel number range that could be an easy way out.

The situation is however further complicated by the fact that Tesco not only used low cost equipment at the customer premises but it is also locked to the Tesco service so that changing the VoIP service information for a new service provider is not easy or straightforward.

The whole subject of number portability is still an issue in the UK. Large service providers (BT, C&W et al) have no incentive to make it easy.  They are the likely losers in the portability game.

Although on the face of it these service providers do say that they are willing to engage with other ITSPs in the interest of the customer the reality is that as large organisations they are a) staffed by teams of lawyers who have their jobs/reputations/companies to protect and b) often reluctant to deal with very small organisations who could go bust at any time and leave them with liabilites. These are actually quite understandable problems for large companies.

Dealing with a member of ITSPA notionally does mean that porting to other companies should be relatively easy but it is still early days and the system is not yet necessarily smooth. ITSPA has been campaigning for a standard porting contract to be made available for everyone in the industry to use.  This almost certainly won’t interest the big boys but it could at least make setting up porting arrangents generally easier for everyone else. I’ll report back as I see progress being made here.

Business ofcom Regs

Regulators at odds with EU over number porting

EU Commissioner for Communications Vivian Reding has been in the news recently threatening to sue the UK over its stance on behavioural advertising. Her name came up again yesterday at my meeting with Ofcom during a discussion on Number Porting.

The coordinated effort to create a Number Porting system for fixed and mobile numbers ground to a halt last year following a law suit by Vodafone.

In the meantime there is activity going on behind the scenes at the regulators to try and rekindle the movement. Viviane Reding, I understand, is particularly keen to sort out the mobile market.

She apparently wants consumers to be able to walk into mobile retail stores and port their numbers on the spot. Do I hear some clapping coming from the back row?  The problem is that this is at odds with National Governments’ attempts at consumer protection.

Government doesn’t want to let operators and their agents push people into changing suppliers without giving them a cooling off period to reconsider their ways. Quite laudible actually.

I think we are going to have a fun time with Viviane Reding over the next year or two.

Business ofcom Regs

New Number Porting Process Thrown Into Disarray

The big news that came out yesterday was about Vodafone’s appeal against the new number porting process. I recently did a post on Portco, the new company being set up to manage an improved number porting process for the UK.

It’s a good job I didn’t give a specific date for the formation of this company because the whole activity is now being called to question. Vodafone successfully appealed against the Ofcom decision to mandate Portco on the basis that it was based on flawed judgement. If you want to read the whole judgement (and I don’t) you can find it here.

Ofcom now has to reconsider its whole approach to number porting. One has to feel sorry for the people involved in putting the whole Portco programme together. They have been hard at it since hte beginning of the year and now do not know whether their labours have been in vain. A meeting is apparently being held on the subject on the 24th September after which I assume we will know more.