The problem is the scheme they have created is cack-handed to such an extent that it is now in our interests to sell more numbers in these areas.
The scheme is that....
- There is a minimum size block we can get allocated, 1000 numbers
- We have to pay for all numbers allocated even if we do not have customers
- If we have a number that is ported out to someone else, we get a discount, and that is more than we pay for the number, and the company that it is ported to pays nothing.
So, what do we do (in the best interests of our shareholders, as required by the Companies Act)?
I created a separate company (not part of the same group of companies) and set up a porting agreement, and a commercial contract for VoIP.
All customers, for over a year now, buying or having numbers in these areas agree on sign-up to port the number to the new provider. We then have a commercial arrangement with the new provider to deliver the calls for that number. This means for live numbers we save more than the cost of a dormant number in these areas. We have done this for the first year and proved it meets OFCOM rules and received the discount.
So now we have to try and encourage as many customers as possible to get numbers live in these areas so that they can be ported out and save us money.
This is a trial of 30 areas codes. If it goes nationwide we may have to shut down doing VoIP at all, as it would not be commercial viable for any small VoIP provider. Let's hope the trial fails and they stop charging, or the legal challenges work and they have to refund.
So, for now, we ask people to take numbers in these conservation areas, please. We can "reserve" numbers for 10p/month now, and that counts. We may actually do some commercial incentives, perhaps even free numbers or some silly low price to get people to take large blocks in these areas. That is the way for us to save the most money.
The big issue is that, until now, there was no reason for any telco to hand back a number block to OFCOM as there were free. Even going bust, another telco would take over the blocks. But now there is a cost for such blocks, so it may not happen. If blocks are handed back, even ported-out numbers will stop working and consumers will suffer when their numbers stop even through no fault of the company from which they buy the (ported) number. Clever idea OFCOM to expose the problems with porting by doing this.
Clever scheme OFCOM, well done making it in our commercial interests to sell more numbers in areas that are short of numbers. Excellent work there.
Long term - let's talk OFCOM - about DNS based number allocation. Make it work per number. Happy to discuss and solve these problems, as ever. Really long terms, "numbers" are so 20th Century and obsolete.
Update: Just to be clear here - two key issues even if you accept that charging for numbers is a way to reduce take up (a) only charge for the numbers that are in use, and this is no less admin than asking how many ported out, and (b) Surely only charge for new blocks from now, as existing telcos with any live numbers can't really give back blocks, so you are not impacting take up any more by charging for blocks already allocated or just new blocks.
Update: Current conservation area codes 01202 01206 01223 01224 01253 01273 01274 01276 01332 01382 01384 01452 01482 01483 01582 01603 01604 01642 01702 01752 01753 01772 01782 01792 01793 01865 01902 01908 01924 01925