ITSPA, the trade body for the next generation communications industry, expressed their serious disappointment with Ofcom’s ongoing position around resolving switching problems amongst fixed-line communication providers; particularly the concerns around number portability - the right of anyone who has been assigned a telephone number from the Numbering Plan to retain that number when they switch to a different landline or mobile provider.
As part of a range of changes to various General Conditions announced today, the proposed changes to number portability were minor and made little major reform to the fixed-line system. The Chair of ITSPA, Eli Katz, stated that “This is unsurprising but is hugely frustrating for industry. Ofcom had indicated during their Review of Digital Communications that the General Condition Review could provide an opportunity for significant changes to be made. We were exasperated when they changed their mind on this decision last year and still are no clearer as to why they appear so unwilling to act to resolve the problems around number porting.”
Ofcom has stated its continued desire for industry to reach consensus on how improvements can be made and for proposals to be put forward. Whist ITSPA members have been willing to participate in industry initiatives, the trade body continues to believe that the regulator needs to be more interventionist in its approach.
Katz continued “Industry has tried and failed on a number of occasions over the past ten years to resolve this problem, but there are simply too many vested interests in this area for progress to be made. Huge amounts of time have been invested in these initiatives but still progress has stalled. Whilst there are some procedural areas that industry can resolve, clear timescales around providers establishing porting agreements and then actually undertaking the switch are needed. This guidance from Ofcom would help immensely and make certain elements of the industry change behaviour. We remain confused as to why Ofcom is refusing to move in this area as our demands seem perfectly reasonable.”
Ofcom has undertaken major reforms to the switching process for the mobile sector and understandably focussed their activity around the consumer market. However, the majority of switching pain is felt within the fixed-line market and amongst businesses, who rely heavily on their communications systems.
Katz concluded “These problems are really hurting businesses across the board, ranging from small telecoms companies to businesses of all size that would benefit from a more competitive telecoms market. As small businesses fall within Ofcom’s regulatory remit, they should really be more of a priority than at present. It is now a decade since Ofcom launched a huge initiative to resolve this problem, which was scuppered by a last minute ruling by a Court of Appeal Tribunal. It is high time that they look at this issue again”.