Posted on: 15th March 2022, by Magrathea
As we start to feel our way out of the pandemic we are now confronted with a number of new challenges. From the deeply concerning conflicts overseas, to the supply chain and economic challenges we are all facing in the UK. We all have more than enough to keep us awake at night.
Here at Magrathea we are keeping our focus on the things we can control and where we can bring the most value to our clients. There are two main areas that we have in our sights: the array of regulatory changes coming up over the next year or so, and the completion of the UK-wide migration to all IP.
Feedback from clients tells us that, with so much going on they would value knowledge sharing in an accessible way and where possible, simplifying not only the industry speak but also how we provide our products and services. So, over the next few weeks we will be picking apart the various key topics we all need to focus on; highlighting how at Magrathea we can help our clients meet their obligations as a Public Electronic Communication Service Provider (PECS).
We don’t attempt to debate the logic, fairness or legalities of any of the topics covered within these communications – if you have input or wish to debate the content please do get in touch with us, or engage with your trade association if you are a member.
Switching & Porting
We wrote here about the Ofcom consultation and statement on the topic https://www.magrathea-telecom.co.uk/switching-and-porting-can-they-be-quick-and-easy/ and there has since been a further statement from Ofcom to clarify some key points, these are outlined below.
Who do the new rules apply to?
The regulations apply to all switching activity, business and residential, for IAS and NBICS services whether fixed or mobile.
Switching is defined as ‘changing provider’.
IAS is defined as ‘Internet Access Services’ and means a service made available to the public which provides access to the internet.
NBICS is defined as ‘Number based interpersonal communication services’ and means an ICS made available to the public which uses a publicly assigned numbering resource or enables communication with numbers in a national or international numbering plan.
However, the use of the new solution – One Touch Switching (OTS) – is only mandatory for residential switching of IAS or NBICS services that are provided at a fixed location.
What is covered in the regulations?
The new regulations are designed to remove barriers for switching and porting. The rules include:
- A switching process must be maintained;
- The process must be gaining provider led;
- Continuity of service must be provided;
- Time and date of switch must be agreed and adhered to;
- Information about the switch must be easily available;
- Consent must be given and recorded;
- Compensation must be made available in the event of problems;
- Number porting must be available to those that request it.
There are then additional regulations that apply only to the residential market, which include how the gaining and losing party should exchange information, how records are maintained, the prohibition of notice period charges and the timeframe for paying compensation.
Who has to use the new OTS Solution?
The mandated OTS solution apples to IAS and NBICS services provided at a fixed location.
This means that most services provided with a geographic phone number associated to them are likely to be in scope. Ofcom, typically, have not offered specific guidance on what will be classed as ‘fixed’ but instead ask providers to make their own assessment. For example, look at how you market the service. If you would reasonably expect it to be used from a fixed location then the service would fall in scope.
The Ofcom statement does make it clear that they would consider services marketed as ‘mobile’ (i.e. for use on the move) are unlikely to be in scope, as are ‘communication platform as a service’ (CPAAS services) typically offered to business users who might also use them for personal calls.
What if we provide business or mobile services only?
You must still follow all the regulatory changes but you are free to choose the solution to help you do that. Ofcom are only mandating OTS for residential users. However, with many service providers offering solutions for both the residential and business markets, it would seem most likely that they will choose one solution for all switches.
We anticipate the larger networks at least aligning their process to make use of the new solution and we expect this will filter through the industry with many deciding that it will be more cost effective and offer simplicity using one solution for all switching types. But it is worth noting that no provider can force you to use the OTS solution for business transactions!
How can we get involved with the design of the OTS solution?
Ofcom requested that the Office of Telecoms Adjudicators (OTA2) facilitate a series of workshops to design and implement the solution until such a time as correct governance and funding is resolved. If you wish to get involved please email John.Abbotts@offta.org.uk who can add you to the mailing list.
Meetings are taking place on a regular basis, with Ofcom present, to ensure this project stays on track. Despite business and number portability specifically being out of scope we are also pleased to see that a number of meetings specifically on this topic have been organised as there is general awareness that all of these requirements need to be tied together.
How can we use the OTS solution when it’s ready?
Details of the final solution are still being ironed out but it is our expectation that the larger networks will have direct access to the hub and the final say on design and implementation, and they will in turn provide access via APIs or GUIs to the hundreds of service providers and resellers who need to access it.
Our intention at Magrathea is to provide APIs and GUIs to our clients, combined with our Porting Portal tools (we have a new API being released this summer), which will enable you to use the OTS hub to process switches and ports for all of your users. We will continue to monitor progress with the project and will share more detail on availability and costs as and when they become available.
What date do the new regulations take effect?
Despite the enormity of the task, Ofcom are staying firm with the effective date of 3rd April 2023.
They have also shifted the deadline on some of the European Electronics Communications Code (EECC) changes relating to porting and switching to coincide with this date. The following changes that were planned for December 2022 now have to be in place by April 2023, once the update to the General Conditions take effect. Specifically, that means:
- The process must be gaining provider led;
- Number portability must be provided on reasonable terms to any switching customer who requests it;
- Number portability must be supported for a minimum of one month after the date the service is terminated by the customer, unless expressly agreed otherwise on termination of service;
- No direct charges may be applied to the customer for number portability;
- Compensation is payable to switching customers when providers have failed to comply with obligations as well as for any missed appointments;
- Splitting of number blocks for portability must be allowed where technically possible.
To read the One Touch Switching statement in full, visit: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/232058/statement-quick-easy-and-reliable-switching.pdf
How does this relate to other consultations, statements and industry initiatives?
Central Database: The work on this OTS ‘hub’ solution will hopefully tie in somewhat with the current feasibility review of a common numbering database. NICC members will be aware that a task group is currently looking at the various use cases that could benefit from a CND and is aiming to come up with a specification that would cover all scenarios so that industry can research cost and availability.
Those of you who have been here for a while will know this type of project has been attempted before with no success, so we can’t currently rely on this as a silver bullet!
Data integrity: One thing we can be certain of though is the need to tidy up the data that we all hold about our customers. Only when the data is correct will the new OTS hub be useful and that will not be a simple process, something we are encouraging industry to make a start on immediately. If we can tackle this now, not only will it save time during implementation phase but also bring about immediate improvements to porting and switching orders that we process today.
EECC: As touched on above, the EECC regulations that were due to take effect in December 2022 have now been delayed to tie in with OTS so are effective 3rd April 2023. However, don’t forget about the changes that need to take effect in June 2022 – namely changes to GC1 and GC5 that introduces additional measures to meet the needs of vulnerable consumers and end users with disabilities. Specifically, this includes:
- Providing contract information and summary;
- Give at least one months’ notice of contract changes;
- Give a right to exit, at no cost, on even of contract modification;
- Giving users access to emergency video relay with sign language.
If you would like more specifics on these changes please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of our latest guidance.
What do we most need to worry about next?
We have also recently seen statements and consultations on scam calls, numbering and the implementation plan resulting from the new Telecoms Security Act, all of which are likely to have impact from early next year. We will cover each of those in more detail over the next few weeks.
Magrathea are very keen to help our clients navigate the myriad of changes and ever-increasing requirements that they have to comply with in order to provide a service here in the UK.
We started out in this industry when VoIP was new to everyone and we put together packages and support that would help new entrants get to grips with everything they needed to thrive. Seeing those business flourish, many of whom are still clients today, gives us huge satisfaction and keeps us striving to do more.
It is this determination to help our clients succeed and grow that will be our focus for the next couple of years, until this period of significant change and increased obligation is just a fond memory.