Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Bending the rules? 07 mobile VoIP

We (A&A) are finally selling normal UK 07 mobile phone numbers as part of our service - both new and ported in. Unlike previous attempts, these work from all operators and even handle SMS.

This has been tricky, because there are rules on 07 mobile numbers. The specific rule is part of the OFCOM National Numbering Plan. In particular the definition :-

‘Mobile Service’ means a service consisting in the conveyance of Signals, by means of an Electronic Communications Network, where every Signal that is conveyed thereby has been, or is to be, conveyed through the agency of Wireless Telegraphy to or from Apparatus designed or adapted to be capable of being used while in motion;

But it gets interesting. The rule on the use of numbers is :-

Those to whom Ofcom has Allocated any Telephone Number listed in Part A of the Plan shall not Adopt or otherwise use it, except in accordance with the applicable designation given in Part A for that number range.

The good news is that we are not someone that has been allocated the numbers we are using for this (by OFCOM). The existing mobile operators are the ones that have been allocated these numbers by OFCOM. So categorically we are not breaking any rules here.

The question comes when considering if OFCOM will be unhappy with the mobile operators providing a service to us. Well, for ported in numbers from other networks than the one we are using, again, they are not the one allocated the number by OFCOM, so for ported in numbers they are OK as well - yay. The original network has to allow porting, and so cannot do anything, so they are in the clear.

But what of numbers allocated by the operator we are using?

Well, we have tried very hard to get OFCOM to answer whether they have ever enforced this rule on 07 mobile numbers. We see, every day, that all of the mobile operators break the rules, and OFCOM have confirmed no exceptions have been granted but no enforcement has been taken. I even pursued an FoI request.

But look at the reason for the rule - once upon a time mobile calls cost a lot, and if the calls did not use the Wireless Telegraphy to or from Apparatus designed or adapted to be capable of being used while in motion then it was a way of operating a sort of premium rate number without the normal rules on such things. These days the cost of calling a mobile, and importantly the terminating revenue, is really low (not quite as low as landline, but low enough not to make sense for that loophole). So there is no reason for the rule anyway.

Every operator allows calls to mobile numbers to go to voicemail. That is against the rules.

Every operator allows divert to landline. That is against the rules.

Some operators run call centres on their 07 numbers. That is against the rules.

Some operators allow wifi calling, which can be used over an Ethernet cable so not wireless. That is against the rules.

For this to be a problem OFCOM will have to enforce an outdated and unnecessary rule against mobile operators, and if they do that it means no more voicemail or call diversion for any of their numbers. They can try and pick on us, but we are not the ones allocated the numbers, and it would be treating us unfairly if they do not sort the other operators first.

Indeed, if an exception was made for call diversion I would say the mobile operator is just doing that, diverting to sip:...whatever and that is therefore as valid as any other call diversion they do.

What is needed is for OFCOM to formally abandon this unnecessary rule!

In the mean time, we do make clear to customers that 07 mobile numbers are intended for use with mobiles and recommend use with our SIP2SIM service - even if that is via our customer's PABX. So we are playing our part in trying to fit in with these rules anyway, even though we don't have to.

22 comments:

  1. Some large, established operators will sell you a service that allows you to send and receive SMS messages using a virtual mobile number that looks like, and seems to be allocated from, their standard mobile 07 allocations.

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  2. Can we port a mobile number in ?

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  3. > Unlike previous attempts, these work from all operators and even handle SMS.

    Do the control pages need updating to reflect the SMS bit? I've just bought a number from you, and in control/outgoing, it shows "SMS on our mobile number range is not supported due to problems with many other carriers being unable to route the message. Inbound SMS will probably not work, this is to be expected".

    Or have I managed to buy a number from the wrong range? :)

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    1. Ha, I will fix that shortly. Well spotted.

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    2. Good stuff. I can report that incoming SMS does indeed work on my new number.

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  4. Any chance of getting proxy support on the SIP2SIM service?
    It is unusable on the hosted pbx system we use because the domain we need to specify when registering is different to the domain name of the server we connect to.
    We have tried contacting support but when they can't get it working we just stopped getting any response back.

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    1. I have not been told of this issue - do you have a support ticket number and SIP trace. It should connect just like a normal SIP phone would. It seems odd that you would require a different domain like that at your end though.

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    2. VE16Q4
      The issue is that the virtual PBX system requires a specific domain name in the SIP 'TO' field which is a different domain name to what the client looks up to find the IP address to connect to.
      Your web admin tool only allows you to enter the destination domain so it always puts this one in the TO field. Most SIP clients support a proxy server so they put your domain in the TO field and do the dns lookup on the proxy to find the IP address to send the SIP packet to.

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    3. That may be something we can fix...

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    4. Do you know if it is the From/To that need the domain, or the actual REGISTER line? I have a change we can test if you need. May be worth asking on irc.

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    5. The TO and Register lines would need to be the domain part of our username. The extra functionality needed is proxy support so the content of the SIP packet would not change but just need the ability to specify the host where the packet will be sent rather than doing a DNS lookup on the domain part of the sip username.
      I will get our sip2sim reactivated and configured and then hop onto irc

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  5. I've just bought one of the new 07 numbers and cancelled my 02 number. At last I can fill in on-line forms!

    How does pricing work with the new 07 numbers? My understanding is that incoming calls on the geographic number cost the caller however much a call to the geographic number costs and the receiver pays the the mobile cost.

    Now that the caller is calling a mobile number, they will pay (I assume) a cost related to calling a mobile number but (again, I assume) the receiver will still pay the mobile cost on the SIM card. Is this paying for the mobile part of the call twice, once by the caller and the other by the receiver?

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    1. We are not getting anything on incoming calls to these 07 numbers, sorry. We don't charge for incoming calls (other than 080 numbers we do). The "air-time" to get to SIP2SIM costs regardless. If you answer the call on a SIP phone such as a SNOM, or Gigaset, there is no "air-time" element so you pay nothing for the incoming call. If you route to SIP2SIM it is the usual cost (2p+VAT/min on O2 in UK). Hope that makes sense.

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  6. It was more about the other telecoms providers who will charge more for calling an 07 number, even though the number is not a mobile number but a SIP number. Sorry, I don't really understand the whole pricing model of the industry and how costs are reconciled across the various carriers so I may be asking a nonsense question.

    As a SIP2SIM user I pay the mobile part of the call whichever way the calls go. But other carriers charge more for calling an 07 number so by swapping from an 02 number to an 07 number I am costing people who call me more and still paying the mobile part of the call.

    I think!

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    1. The cost of the call is based on the number. There is no such thing really as a "SIP number". 071-075 are "mobile numbers" because of the numbering plan, but as you know, calling them can go to voicemail (no mobile involved), or divert to somewhere, or in this case arrive over SIP. The caller will pay mobile rates to call it, but they are a lot lower now, and included in packages more often. If cost of calling is a concern, have a "landline" style number as well - they can call the same phone.

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    2. There is nothing to stop you having a freephone number to call your phone even, but it costs you a few pence per minute to receive calls for that (as well as any SIP2SIM). The only thing that is a tad difficult right now is controlling what number to call from as SIP2SIM would call from one number only. I am looking at ways to make that easier to control on a per call basis though where you use multiple numbers.

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  7. Out of curiosity, what is your policy on number recycling? If someone takes a number from you, and then cancelled, do you leave it dormant for a period before re-adding it to the pool?

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    1. Yes, and we even have a feature on the order form to re-activate a recently ceased number. But ultimately it gets returned to the free pool.

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    2. Nice, that's far better than other operators where if a PAC transfer fails, or rather gets balls up, then you could loose your number with no way to get it back. Why there can't be a standard procedure that allows to get your number back during that grace period assuming you can provide appropriate proof that you owned that number in the past?

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  8. Do you have any plans to review the cost of mobile data? I know it's comparing apples and oranges, but I have a SIM from Three with 'Unlimited' mobile data and 30GB of tethering for £20/month. I regularly use 10GB+ of data, and all of my family do the same.

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    1. We are talking to our suppliers about that soon. We do try :-)

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