Regulatory review, the year so far…

Posted on: 26th February 2020, by Magrathea

Regulatory review, the year so far…

In Spring last year we were busy responding to three Ofcom consultations which were absolutely critical to our industry – promoting trust in telephone numbers, the future of telephone numbers and the future of interconnection and call termination.

Ofcom had committed to reviewing these three areas in the Annual Plan and this review was widely welcomed by many of us who recognise that the communication sector is evolving at a rapid pace and we need the regulator to keep up!

Today we take a brief look at progress since these consultations closed last year and what we are working on now.

Future of telephone numbers

Magrathea urged caution against changing too many things at once, with so many high impact matters under consultation we felt that making any drastic changes to number types and area codes could be pushed down the priority list.

However, we did register our support for the closure of local dialing, maintaining geographic area codes, retaining revenue generating numbers and capping access charges.

To date there has been no further consultation or statement on this, but we would expect to see some of this picked up in the Narrowband Market Review due any day now.

Promoting trust in telephone numbers

In our response to Ofcom we stressed that there are two key areas that must have urgent focus if any new caller ID authentication remedy is to work.  The first area is data cleansing, with even Ofcom being unsure of what numbers they have allocated it will take considerable time to get a common database of any type accurate enough to be used for data validation.  In our opinion this work should have been started already as so many future initiatives will depend on this.

The second area is IP migration.  Ofcom have made assumptions that we will all have migrated to an all-IP network in time for any remedy to work, however as far as we can see very little progress has been made to ensure this is a priority for UK carriers.

Magrathea have been following progress of the Blockchain proof of concept, which has the potential to be part of the solutions proposed, however the project has been plagued by delays meaning industry has not yet had the chance to assess feasibility.  We are hoping to have access to the tools in March, after which time we would expect to see further consultation.

Future of interconnection and call termination

We strongly encouraged Ofcom to review BT’s migration plans as well as what IP interconnect options would be available going forward.  We feel that a lack of information, planning and the risk associated with losing regulatory constraints on interconnect prices are drastically slowing down the ability of UK networks to embrace migration to an all-IP world.

As far as we can see there is still very little progress in this area.  Despite our best efforts we have not been able to provoke any useful communication that gives us confidence that the future wholesale market will not be negatively impacted by the apparent belief held by the regulators that BT are no longer a dominant player in this space.   Magrathea will continue to work alongside other industry groups to stress the importance of this issue and will be responding to the Narrowband Market & Call Termination Review that is due to be released by Ofcom any day now, the results of which will take effect in April 2021.

New consultations

There is however lots of work going on to implement new European Regulations which must take effect in December of this year.  A consultation called “Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers”, which closes for responses on 3rd March, focusses on removing any barriers to switching providers, enforcing clearer contract information with stronger rights to exist and doing more for vulnerable customers.  There are lots of details in this one that will impact our clients and we will provide a summary once the final statement is released.

Due to the very tight timescales industry, under the guidance of the OTA, have already started working on more robust switching solutions to meet this requirement and Ofcom are due to release a final statement and general condition changes in Q2 of 2020.

And finally, there is a large consultation still open called “Promoting investment and competition in fibre networks – Wholesale Fixed Telecom Market Review 2021-26”.  This one has been fed into by previous consultations with similar names, focusing on copper network retirement plans and replacement fibre products as well as access to ducts and poles and regulating pricing where there is reduced competition.

In summary, as promised last year, we are embarking on a huge period of change and we are working hard to stay abreast of all the issues and represent our client’s best interests in our dealings with Ofcom, but if you would like to discuss how any of these consultations or plans might impact you or would like to get your own views heard so we can take that into consideration on future responses please do get in touch.