28th March 2018

ITSPA hopeful on movement in fixed-line switching but calls for wider Ofcom leadership around future regulation

ITSPA, the trade association for the next generation communications industry, has cautiously welcomed some of the measures proposed by Ofcom in their Annual Plan for 2018/19, which are aimed at improving switching problems between fixed-line telephony providers. The problems are focused on 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.

Following a submission to the consultation on their proposed Annual Plan criticising the regulator for their lack of action, Ofcom have pledged to take forward some activity in specific areas. Notably, they have promised to review a proposal developed by the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) which was produced with input from ITSPA members and have also pledged to investigate complaints against telecoms providers who are not complying with their obligations to provide portability.

Eli Katz, Chair of ITSPA, supported the developments but reiterated ITSPA’s call for further action from Ofcom: “There is some tentative optimism amongst ITSPA members that Ofcom are starting to take this issue more seriously. We believe that the feedback in today’s Annual Plan show that Ofcom recognises the widespread concerns with the number porting system and is willing to make progress in resolving the longstanding problems. However, it is clear that Ofcom needs to go further if it is really serious about forcing industry to act. We have long called for Ofcom to set out clear timescales within which providers must establish porting arrangements and then undertake switches. This would force industry to adjust behaviour quickly and would be a truly significant step in addressing the harm caused to businesses of all size who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of inaction. ITSPA does, however, remain hopeful that today’s announcement marks a change in direction and the output from the OTA kickstarts some general progress on this issue that hurts both our members, the UK SME business community and public sector organisations.”

Katz added that this concern forms one of several important regulatory concerns as the switch to All IP begins to take pace. He said “As the transition from copper-based products to IP intensifies, it is increasingly important that the regulatory regime encourages competition and does not simply favour the incumbent or the larger players. The last minute price increase around Openreach’s 40/10 broadband package within the Wholesale Local Access Market statement published today is a case in point. The move to IP networks is indeed a welcome move for our industry but there is the danger that the transition phase unfairly squeezes the smaller players, as their larger competitors use their clout to land grab in areas where the regulatory regimes are yet to have been set. Ofcom and Government need to bare this in mind when making specific decisions in the next few years”.

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