Switching and porting, can they be quick and easy?

Posted on: 15th October 2021, by Magrathea

Ofcom have recently published the long-awaited statement on the new switching process to be applied to residential landline and/or broadband users.  But don’t let the innocuous title “Quick, easy and reliable switching” distract you from the fact that this is a major requirement being placed on our industry with a myriad of challenges to overcome.

The main driver for this statement (which is also a consultation) is to meet the requirements of the EECC regulations which we have written about before https://www.magrathea-telecom.co.uk/ofcom-consultation-summary-european-electronic-communication-code/

Ofcom have decided that a new ‘One Touch Switch’ process is necessary to meet the requirements of the EECC regulation which stipulates demands such as switching must be gaining provider led and done in the minimum time possible.  By adhering to the new process service providers will be deemed to be meeting their obligations but, as is often the case with Ofcom, this solution isn’t being mandated… just anyone not using it is likely to be considered in breach of the General Conditions which should be a good incentive to join in.

They have also said that business switching is not included at this time, although business providers may wish to use the process.  This will likely trouble many business providers as they are potentially going to be at the mercy of the much larger residential providers who will undoubtedly get a greater say in how ‘One Touch Switch’ hangs together simply due to their size and resources.

The process is expected to look something like this:

Step 1 – The customer will contact their chosen new provider and request a switch of service.

Step 2 – The gaining provider will take full responsibility for the process from start to finish.  They will check the customer identity and right to request the migration via some kind of messaging hub which talks to the losing provider, and this exchange will trigger the losing provider to notify the customer of the implications of switching, giving them a chance to change their mind.

Step 3 – The customer gives the gaining provider the go ahead and, on the date chosen, the services will all switch across.  Any break in service is likely to trigger a compensation payment to the customer, another regulatory requirement.

This does of course sound nice and simple from a consumer point of view, they will only have to contact one organisation and any resulting difficulties are dealt with behind closed doors.  For the service providers involved though this is potentially a different picture.  With data discrepancies, contact difficulties, resourcing issues or simple obstructiveness by other parties, there are lots of reasons this could create a great deal of work for the gaining provider.

There are also still many questions to be addressed around emergency restore procedures, data protection and reliability of any hub or database used in the process.

But one key thing that is missing from all of this is how number portability will fit in.  Part of the switching process is often the move of a telephone number to a new provider and with the UK still bumping along trying to manage the many challenges we have with portability,  there are many of us who fear porting will sabotage the switching process before it even gets time to warm up.

Ofcom have had to intervene with the switching process because industry alone could not agree a way forward, but they have remained non-committal to how porting can be solved or even considered as part of this – although they have made it clear that we are expected to make it work.

Of course, we’ve faced challenges like this before and there are some very clever and dedicated people in our industry who are ready to tackle this BUT the deadline is April 2023!  That’s less than 18 months to get this up and running!

The first steps are being managed by the OTA with meetings starting up this week – if anyone wants to get involved in one of the working groups for this project please do get in touch with the OTA and express your interest.

Magrathea will be involved as much as we can be to represent our clients and our own interests in number portability. We are hoping that these developments, combined with the recently formed NICC Task Group researching central numbering databases, will finally give industry the momentum needed to make some changes.

If you have any input, you would like us to share at industry meetings or have any other views you think we should hear please do get in touch!