30 June, 2015

RD 414 - ETNO Comments on Draft ECC Report 238 “3rd Party Access to Number Portability Data (NP Data)”

Download the full Reflection Document here.

  1. General Comments

ETNO welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Draft ECC Report 238 “3rd Party Access to Number Portability Data (NP Data)”. 

As a general comment, whilst ETNO appreciates the rationale for extending access to NP data, ETNO considers that this should be pursued with great care. It is our view that uncontrolled access to the information for what numbers are active or which providers hold the number invariably lead to abuses such as robot calling and aggressive telemarketing, which once in place are very difficult to tackle. In practice it is indeed very difficult to hold 3rd parties - i.e. intermediaries distributing NP data - responsible for the abuse of these data, especially when it happens beyond national jurisdiction. The safeguards relative to making such parties accountable and the instrument to enforce these principles must be defined. Access to NP data should be at least restricted to authorized entities according to the European regulatory framework.

A second important aspect to consider is that a national reference NP database updated in real time, when available, is strictly related with the functioning of the national NP technical solutions (e.g. in the case of “onward routing” this NP database may not be available). As a consequence 3rd party service providers, able to access such a NP database, should conform to the national NP solutions to guarantee that NP processes, procedures and routing continue to operate without any impact or disruption on the other national providers.

As regards tariff transparency, a direct access to the NP database should not be provided to the end users, since they need a more user friendly and understandable service: the operators themselves may provide to their customers information associated to the numbers (e.g. recipient operators). In addition, the report does not elaborate on the exact extent of the problem of tariff transparency in Europe. It is ETNO’s view that given the gradual reduction of mobile termination rates and the marginal difference between on-net and off-net calls, a direct access by end-users should not be pursued.

As a conclusion, the two considered 3rd Party Accesses to NP Data are very different and should be treated separately in the draft ECC Report.

In general ETNO agrees on the possibility of the 3rd party service providers, who are not operators or providers obliged to offer NP, to get access to national NP databases for routing information, under the condition that these 3rd party service providers are nationally authorized to provide electronic communications services according to the EU regulatory framework (or a similar licence-based system outside the EU). For the reasons above, the technical impact of such an evolution would have to be assessed before such authorisations be granted and any legal obligations be applied to such parties as they apply to all providers that have access to such data.

Since the provision of NP is a complex procedure, the authorization regime allows the national Administrations to control the behaviour of 3rd parties accessing the NP database. It has to be underlined that only 3rd party service providers equipped with networks/service platforms, and with appropriate technical and commercial agreements for interconnection and routing with national public operators, need NP data for routing purposes. The authorization regime allows also to control the possible rising of illegal trade practices and misuse of the NP information.

ETNO welcomes also the possibility of 3rd parties, who are end users willing to have tariff transparency, to have information on the operators serving specific numbers. ETNO notes that national obligations already exist in many European countries for operators to provide tariff transparency services to their customers. As a consequence many web sites have already been implemented in European Countries to provide this information to the end users, mainly for mobile numbers, since for fixed numbers in general the price of the calls does not change for the different fixed operators.

ETNO would like also to underline that the information provided to the end-users for tariff transparency is in general the name of the operator, or its commercial brand, and is different from the information held in NP Databases for routing purposes. Furthermore, it is important to note that some of the national databases could only contain numbers that “are in the process of being ported”. In other words, a national DB does not necessarily contain all data relative to all ported numbers.

ETNO appreciates the need of the Administrations to identify specific policies that allow to verify if the needs raised by 3rd parties are really justified in terms of routing.

ETNO appreciates the considerations of the Administrations on how compliance monitoring and enforcement could be implemented to deter 3rd party access seekers from using or reselling NP Data for purposes other than specified in the terms and conditions of access. This Administration role is essential to protect all national providers and users.

In ETNO opinion 3rd parties should not be allowed to use NP Data for marketing purposes. Marketing purposes are not the aim for accessing NP data. In addition access to NP Data by 3rd parties of foreign countries should only be given if that is allowed by national regulation, if similar arrangements are available in those foreign countries and on the basis of bilateral commercial agreements, respecting the national technical solutions for NP provision. This should also apply to 3rd parties from countries outside Europe where European regulations do not apply.

The providers of NP data should be allowed to get a reasonable margin on the costs to provide this kind of data to a 3rd party. The 3rd party is making money from this information and is capable to pay for the limited cost of the information. At least cost of capital should be taken into account. Also in case there is no mutual exchange with a specific country, there is no reason to limit the price of the information to the pure costs.

In ETNO view new processes to access national NP databases should not impact on operators and providers; to guarantee that, these new processes should be developed involving all the operators and service providers who are obliged to offer NP.

In general access to the national NP data for 3rd parties should only be given by means of a daily download. A more frequent access to this data for 3rd parties requires costs that could be disproportionate in relation to the marginal advantage for 3rd parties to correctly route also the last per mille calls and could create superfluous risks for operational processes and procedures.

In addition, ETNO consider that the above developments should be national, since different Countries have implemented different solutions for NP and NP databases (either centralized, distributed, or local NP databases of operators for onward routing solutions). The national character of these new processes for 3rd party access to NP data should be underlined in the final ECC Report. Additionally the conditions to be established for access to the NP databases should be consistent with the data protection regulation applicable in each country.

Download the full Reflection Document here.

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