OTA2 Update for May 2018

At the end of May 2018, the number of unbundled lines stands at 9.98 million. There are 4.30 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS is 1.71 million.

The LLU (SMPF+MPF) number is close to 10 million and is likely achieve this in the next few weeks. However, it is expected that this number will reduce back below the 10 million number relatively quickly. This reflects CP adoption of different products for migration and novation.

Our second quarterly insight focuses on the challenge of number porting. Each quarter a different topic will be chosen for review.

Next Steps to improving Fixed Line Number Porting in the UK

Why do we need to port numbers? 

When a consumer decides to switch their services to a new Provider, in many cases they will also insist on keeping their old telephone number. To achieve this, the gaining CP will send a port order directly to the losing CP asking for the number to be ported across to the gaining CPs network.

The Ofcom Position

To help facilitate a successful number port from one CP to another, the Ofcom General Condition 18 places an obligation on all losing CPs to enable the export of numbers when requested to do so. GC18 also specifies that CPs shall provide number portability within the shortest possible time, on reasonable terms and conditions (including charges) to any of its consumers who so request.

Ofcom have overall responsibility for managing the UK numbering plan including the allocation of number ranges to CPs. Thereafter, CPs are held accountable by Ofcom for ensuring those number ranges are managed efficiently and repatriated back to Ofcom when no longer needed.

Industry Governance and Performance

The processes used to port fixed line numbers were originally crafted 25 years ago and the responsibility for those processes (in terms of efficiency as well as effectiveness) has since rested with the Number Port Process & Commercial Industry Group (NPP&CG).

In recent years, the NPP&CG has been chaired by OTA2 and meet monthly to review performance and to develop plans for improvement. The group is always well attended with a wide range of CP representation, ranging from the very small number of mass residential CPs, to the much larger community of CPs who operate exclusively in the business market.

In 2016, a performance dashboard was introduced for the first time, which enabled the NPP&CG stakeholder community to ‘objectively’ gauge their individual and collective performance in terms of order handling and port activation.

In short, whilst number porting performance in the Residential market can be considered acceptable, the performance in the business market space is considered by all to be very poor. This is evidenced by the steady flow of complaints into Ofcom from End Users as well as CPs.

What's being done?

Two years ago, the NPP&CG industry group came to the growing realisation that their efforts to tactically improve the current operating model were unlikely to ever deliver the transformation needed to fundamentally address existing shortcomings whilst establishing a model fit for the 21st century.

The CP stakeholder community have now established the Number Port Executive Steering Group (NPESG) with a mandate to provide the strategic leadership and direction which was lacking previously.

The NPESG is comprised of senior representatives from a broad cross-section of the stakeholder community. Following extensive discussions over the last 12 months, the NPESG have recently submitted a proposal to Ofcom, comprised of 2 elements (Tactical and Strategic), both of which require the full support and public endorsement of Ofcom, which the group believe will be essential if they are to secure the wider industry commitment needed to achieve the required outcome.

The tactical proposal is primarily aimed at establishing more effective governance across the piece to deliver improved CP process compliance.

The strategic proposal describes a small number of high-level strategic options (and associated building blocks) which NPESG have asked Ofcom to endorse before going to the next level in terms of more detailed solution design and business case development.

Ofcom have positively acknowledged the NPESG proposal and have confirmed that they will be reviewing the proposals, alongside other related challenges (e.g. CLI authentication to counter nuisance calls) as part of their ‘Annual Plan for 18/19’.

In the meantime, the NPP&CG continue to focus their efforts on a small number of specific initiatives designed to improve number port order handling for the business market.

Rod Smith