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T-Mobile forced to connect Truphone numbers

Spat headed for court

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T-Mobile will be forced to connect calls to Truphone numbers, by court injunction granted yesterday.

However, the spat between the companies is far from over as T-Mobile will be paying a rate which makes Truphone's business unsustainable.

T-Mobile has been refusing to connect calls made to Truphone numbers starting 079788 as Truphone has asked for a termination fee based on the calls being routed to a mobile phone, even if the call is actually sent over its VoIP network.

If the Truphone user isn't connected to VoIP, that reflects the real cost of the call, as it is forwarded to the mobile network. But if the user is connected to VoIP, there is no termination fee to pay and Truphone takes the fee as profit.

T-Mobile claims that Truphone is operating as a fixed-line provider, so it will only pay a fixed-line termination fee, which would see Truphone lose money when calls are forwarded over the mobile networks.

The injunction forces T-Mobile to start connecting calls, but only at the reduced rate - leaving Truphone out of pocket until it can force (or convince) T-Mobile to accept its higher rate. It'll be filing papers on Friday to start the process, claiming that T-Mobile is abusing its monopoly position regarding access to its customers.

Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, is trying to avoid getting involved in the spat claiming that it's a commercial dispute. According to Ofcom, only BT is obliged to connect to every phone number. Other operators are at liberty to pick and choose to whom they route calls - though that's rarely happened.

Proving abuse of monopoly won't be easy for Truphone, but losing this case would fatally undermine its business model. Other operators will be watching with interest to see how the arguments are played out, and the eventual ruling, which will have an enormous impact on telecommunications services in the UK whatever the courts decide. ®

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