Feeds

UK faces long wait for faster number porting

How Ofcom fluffed the paperwork

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Comment Vodafone has blocked Ofcom's proposal to reform the UK number portability system, citing errors in the regulator's paperwork and methodology rather than any failing in the proposal itself.

With the proposal now lost somewhere between court and quango, UK consumers continue to be stuck with a number porting system that seems to benefit no-one except the established mobile cos.

The case has been before the Competition Appeals Tribunal for the last six months or so, and has been concerned with how Ofcom reached its conclusions, rather than any disagreement with them. Vodafone, backed by every mobile operator except 3, successfully argued that Ofcom has failed to fulfil its own requirements for robustness of evidence, relying on overestimated figures rather than establishing them securely, thus rendering its conclusions invalid. (Full judgment pdf.)

In the UK mobile phone numbers are issued to companies, which keep them forever. When a customer ports his number to a different provider (known as the "recipient network") his old provider (known as the "donor network") continues to manage that number - forwarding incoming calls to the recipient network and collecting a fee for every minute forwarded. The donor network also sets the termination fee charged to incoming calls, though that fee is (largely) passed on to the recipient network.

This arrangement suits the incumbent operators very well - you damn your provider and walk away, but they continue to make money on every call you receive, as long as you keep your number. As a smaller player 3 is more often the recipient network than the donor - thus its unmitigated support for better portability and provision of legal support to Ofcom in the appeal.

Ofcom would like to see a central database of phone numbers to which all the operators subscribe. This model is used successfully in many countries. Even in the UK many operators, including Vodafone, already "trap" outgoing calls to numbers they know have been ported to their network to avoid paying the donor network for routing. Ofcom argued that such trapping systems prove that a central database is technically simple to implement.

Vodafone's case was based on the argument that the cost-effectiveness of the database was not the issue, but the problem was that Ofcom had failed to provide evidence that stood up to "profound and rigorous" scrutiny, so its conclusion that the benefits of such a system exceed the cost cannot be trusted.

Another issue is that while figures are available on what proportion of numbers have been ported - around five per cent a year - no one knows how many of those have been ported back to their original network, or how many more punters would port their numbers if it only took a couple of hours. Ofcom based its calculations on a worst-case scenario, when it should have used empirical evidence.

Ofcom also failed, according to the tribunal, to properly specify the database, making cost estimates impossible.

So now the whole deal has been thrown back to Ofcom for reconsideration, and this time the regulator is going to have to work with the operators to draw up the cost-benefit analysis and database specifications. This is likely to give the incumbents limitless opportunities to delay things well into the next century. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.