ITSPA endorses Ofcom’s annual plan but stresses the need to resolve core concerns for the long-term health of the sector

ITSPA, the trade body for the next generation communications industry, welcomed Ofcom’s finalised priorities within their annual plan of 2019/20 but indicated that progress in specific areas was needed to ensure the telecommunications industry remained as vibrant during the crucial transition phase to “all-IP” networks.

The Chair of ITSPA, Eli Katz, stated that “The annual plan identifies the core issues for our sector, including preparation for the PSTN switch-off, the regulation of interconnection in an IP world and the ongoing problems surrounding number portability in the UK. These will be absolutely crucial to ensure our members thrive in all-IP environment and their customers can gain the maximum benefit of the opportunities available”.

ITSPA members are already heavily involved in the various working groups that Ofcom and industry have set up in these areas and will be wanting to contribute to the various work streams and consultations that will be rolled out in the coming months. At the heart of ITSPA’s concerns is ensuring i) there is enough consumer awareness in relation to IP Migration and ii) there is a suitable wholesale environment that maintains an equally competitive landscape during the transition phase.

Katz added, “Whilst the market today is not perfect, it has developed into a highly competitive environment with many competing CPs offering various solutions to customers. Providing transition is managed carefully, an all-IP environment will provide the same competitive and innovative opportunities whilst resolving some longstanding legacy issues. However, there is a real danger that a vacuum of effective regulatory measures could drastically damage the wholesale environment and force CPs out of business before we reach the desired destination.”

ITSPA have highlighted the impact around limited wholesale product choice where there will be no fibre network at the point of PSTN switch off. This includes concerns around the availability of Openreach’s SOTAP product as a transitional product and its use as replacement for ISDN, which would not replicate the levels of quality required for business users. Equally the concerns of little or belated regulation of IP interconnection products outlines concerns that members could have very limited choice around who carries CP traffic.

The final area of number portability has long been a huge concern for ITSPA and our members have shown enthusiasm for Ofcom’s recent blockchain initiative. Katz said, “ITSPA have seen many false dawns on number portability over the years and so we are not getting too excited yet. However, we are plugged into the necessary project groups around both the blockchain initiative and the strategic call for inputs to continue the progress. This is fundamental to ensuring a properly effective number management system is fit for purpose in an IP world. We cannot ignore the problems anymore.”