Porting update

Simon Woodhead

Simon Woodhead

24th March 2020

By Simon Woodhead

Please see a further update on this situation here (March 25th)

This morning we posted some alarming news and our letter to Ofcom regarding BT’s apparent absence of business continuity when it comes to geographic number portability.

At the time, none of the hundreds of numbers due to port from BT today had completed, and none had at the usual automated time of 10am. Openreach porting were also unreachable on their main line and indeed many secondary numbers.

Since that time we have managed to get through to the escalations team at Openreach in India and got a better flavour of what is going on. The contact we spoke to had diligently made it into the office today but confirmed:

  • Openreach have “temporarily suspended their operations due to the Government mandate that’s in place in India”. This builds on the message we had yesterday that “due to Coronavirus situation BT is closing down department working on porting orders as this is not essential service”.
  • “Everything with regards to geographic porting” is affected.
  • The automated system is processing ports already in the pipeline. In our experience this is 50/50 as to whether it works fully or not and there is confirmed to be nobody there if/when it doesn’t.
  • He has manually pushed through all outstanding Simwood ports for today and we’re seeing them trickle in now.
  • Tomorrow he is attending for the scheduled call with the OTA but thereafter there will be nobody there.

We’ll get further formal confirmation of all this after tomorrow’s OTA call, but we fear that this means no ports involving BT will complete after today, until India is back operational. Where the automated system completes them partially, there is nobody to intervene and correct. This could leave some customers out of service. There is nobody available to fix other faults that develop with BT ported numbers either.

Why do BT matter here I hear you ask? Well, numbers never truly leave the original range-holder but instead are routed by block 100k/10k/1k at a time depending on area. The operator of that block then forwards to the alternative operator at a low network level. Hence why ports from BT need to involve BT in the absence of a central database.

However, what about ports that are nothing to do with BT? Well a TalkTalk number porting to Simwood would indeed not involve BT at all (just Simwood and TalkTalk), but a TalkTalk customer who had kept their number from when BT had a monopoly (this includes all those WLR circuits “competing” operators sold) would involve BT. BT will currently be pointing the number to TalkTalk’s network and need to change that to point to Simwood.

Take another scenario, a Vodafone number porting to Simwood from BT. Well, you might think that only Vodafone need to repoint this number to Simwood and you’re partly right. Unfortunately, BT also need to delete that number from their network lest the swathes of people who default route to BT, or resell BT, will continue to see calls going to Vodafone.

This is one of many reasons why UK porting is so broken and has been desperate for regulatory intervention for years.

A quick analysis of Simwood’s open ports tells us that despite BT being nowhere near the top of our list of porting partners – we port loads from them but massively more from others nowadays – 73% of our ports fall into one of the above categories. That is to say, three quarters of ports will now not happen.

So those are the facts of the situation as we see them. What we don’t know is what will come out of tomorrow’s call or indeed, what (if anything) Ofcom will do. We can also only speculate as to whether IPExchange will continue enabling its resellers to port from competing networks or BT will do the right thing. Lastly, with three quarters of ports potentially not going to happen for the foreseeable future, we don’t know what those other operators who have invested in business continuity will do with their porting teams. We will do the right thing by our people but can understand no business can sustain a team when 75% of the work has gone. What does this mean for porting generally?

We will update you with any further news as and when we have it but meanwhile, we will be doing the best we can with your ports but please understand where this is beyond our control.

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