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T-Mobile terminates Truphone

Mobile operator, or not?

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T-Mobile has stopped connecting its customers when they call someone using Truphone, saying the VoIP operator is overcharging for interconnection.

Instead, T-Mobile customers get a recorded announcement saying they must have misdialed.

T-Mobile says its objection is that the termination rate Truphone is asking for is about the same as it pays the other mobile network operators, while Truphone has no mobile network to support.

"Other operators have invested huge amounts of money into their networks," T-Mobile corporate communications head Simon Marks said. "Truphone has no network to maintain."

The termination fee is an amount paid to the receiving network when a call is made to a customer of that network, and the rates charged by different networks are public information. Truphone is asking for reasonable rates by mobile network standards, but if it is a fixed-network it should, arguably, be receiving a lot less.

Marks said: "It's not up to us to decide what kind of network Truphone is."

Numbers issued by Truphone start "07", so are clearly identifiable as mobile-rated by customers, and are billed as such by other operators. If the Truphone customer is outside a data connection then incoming calls are forwarded to their normal mobile number, on their GSM network, and this requires Truphone to pay a termination fee to that network.

Truphone can't afford to back down, as that would make all forwarded calls loss-making and its business unsustainable, but T-Mobile isn't going to either.

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom requires phone companies to interconnect, and Truphone reckons T-Mobile is in breach of Ofcom rules by refusing to accept its rates. However, its rates are only reasonable if Truphone is a mobile operator, so it seems likely Ofcom will be required to rule on the mobility of Truphone.

Ofcom was unavailable for comment at time of writing.

With Truphone customers not receiving calls, and those making them unsure why, Ofcom is going to have to act quickly. ®

Bootnote

Ofcom has been in touch to say they consider the whole thing to be a commercial dispute, and as long as it's not BT who are refusing to connect then they don't want to get involved. Meanwhile T-Mobile are still not connecting Truphone numbers starting 07978, though developments are expected soon.

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