Practice Makes Perfect

Ofcom publish a code of practice for broadband suppliers. Customers must understand the speed they will get and be put on the correct package accordingly.
This week industry regulator Ofcom have published a code of practice for fixed line broadband providers, and revealed that a similar code is being considered for mobile broadband. The code is just voluntary but Ofcom have said that if the voluntary code is not effective, Ofcom have said that it will consider introducing formal regulation.

Ofcom have said that it was concerned that consumer satisfaction of ISPs had fallen over the past year, with customers being misled or misinformed by headline speeds that are higher than users can actually receive in practice. 90% of service providers have signed up to the voluntary code which will require ISPs to give consumers a clearer understanding of the speeds they can get and to make sure they sign up to an appropriate broadband package.

O2 have welcomed the publication, as their own research has shown that connection speeds and customer support are the two factors which frustrate customers the most. The research also revealed that customers do not feel they are being provided with a quality product, a quarter of Britons are unhappy with their broadband service and one in eight users admit that they intend to switch provider in the next six months.

Almost a quarter of people in the O2 survey said that the most frustrating thing about their broadband service is the connection speed, although only half of those questioned actually had an idea what speed their broadband is.

O2’s Best Plan makes sure that customers only pay for the broadband package that is right for them. An initial line check estimates the speeds the customer can receive to ensure they are placed on the correct package before they sign up to broadband. This is then checked again after connection to ensure once again that the customer is on the best package for them, and that they only pay for the package with the speed their line can support.

Ofcom Safeguarding the Future of Telephone Numbering

Ofcom, the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, made public its future approach to telephone numbering in the UK. Ofcom is responsible for managing the UK National Telephone Numbering system. Telephone numbers are a critical national resource, for consumers, businesses and the delivery of key public services.

Ofcom’s statement follows a full public consultation earlier this year and sets out the strategic decisions about how telephone numbers will be managed over the next five to ten years.

Some of the most important goals to be fulfilled by Ofcom’s approach are: no changes to be made to geographic numbers, a single national point to be offered by new UK-wide 03 number range, clearer and simpler prices for 08 numbers and assuring protection for consumers from telephone scams.

Ofcom does not intend to change the geographic telephone numbers starting with 01 and 02 traditionally used by most households and businesses and further more Ofcom will simplify the non-geographic numbers currently beginning with ’08’ and ’09’ that are used by certain businesses and public services. This will be achieved by improving the efficiency with which numbers are allocated as from now on Ofcom allocates blocks of numbers to communications providers, who in turn allocate them to customers.

Another thing Ofcom will take in consideration is to assess five years in advance where numbers will be in most demand and allocate numbers in blocks of one thousand instead of ten thousand numbers. It will also avoid the waste of numbers by reclaiming the unused ones.

Trying to fulfil the need of the customers no matter if they are businesses, public services or voluntary services, that want a common national number, but who do not wish to charge consumers a premium for contacting them’ Ofcom will allocate a new type of number� starting with ’03’. Calls to 03 numbers will cost the same as calls to geographic numbers, and be included as part of any inclusive call minutes or discount schemes for geographic calls. This will apply to calls from any line and no revenue sharing will be permitted on calls to 03 numbers.

The pricing for numbers beginning 08 will be clarified in a more understandable manner for callers too. Ofcom will move to three clear categories of 08 numbers: 080 – Freephone (including current 0800 and 0808 numbers); 084 – Up to a lower rate (5p per minute from BT lines); 087 – Up to a higher rate (10p per minute from BT lines). One of the Ofcom’s goals is to reclassify premium rate 09 numbers so people can tell how much they will be charged by different services by looking at the number immediately after the 9.
Maybe one of the most important policies Ofcom will apply is the process for allocating numbers to communications providers to increase consumer protection. Ofcom will be using a consumer protection test when allocating telephone numbers, which should permit to cut off the supply of telephone numbers to those communications providers that persistently and/or seriously abuse consumers.

Ofcom is also taking specific action to protect against abuse of existing ‘personal numbering’ services by applying a ceiling to call prices for all calls, whether from fixed lines, mobiles or payphones. Calls costing more than this will require a free announcement to the caller before the call begins. Ofcom will end 070 personal numbering allocations from the end of 2007 in order to avoid confusion with mobile numbers. Next year Ofcom will review what genuine personal numbering services exist, and may at that point enable them to be provided on numbers starting with ’06’. The 06 numbers will also be reserved for potential use for ‘individual numbers’ and for direct allocation to consumers.

Mixed reactions to new Ofcom VoIP regulations

Ofcom will start regulating the burgeoning internet telecoms sector this summer to ensure that customers are fully aware of the potential limitations of some computer-based phone services.

Ofcom said that by the end of the year, there could be as many as 3 million VoIP users in the UK as companies such as Skype, BT and Vonage add more users. Most subscribers use the service as a secondary telecoms line within the home.

The new rules follow a public consultation last year that was intended to help consumers make more informed decisions about VOIP services.

”Providers that don’t offer emergency service calls and don’t work without a power supply must display warnings on their products.” – Ofcom.

”VOIP providers will also have to disclose whether customers can keep their same phone number if they switch providers.” – Ofcom.

“Operators must be clear about whether their service will work in the event of a power failure.” – Ofcom.

Many VOIP services depend on a powered router for Internet access, so if the home power supply were cut off, the VOIP service also would not work.

So far, the European Commission has taken a ‘light touch’ attitude towards VOIP and not imposed regulation as the industry matures a stance it adopted in 2005.

In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission has banned companies from advertising VOIP services if they do not allow people to call emergency services.

“In assessing the need for any new requirement, we will continue to carefully consider the impact of such regulation on market entry, innovation and competition,” Ofcom said on its Web site.

David Quirk, CEO of C21 Communications said: “The concern for public safety is more than welcome, but regulations should take into consideration that VoIP services already cross boundaries. Nowadays UK customers have VoIP services from many different operators all over the world and competition might become unfair for UK operators facing strict regulations.”

VoIP-only providers argued that Ofcom could place an unnecessary burden on the emerging industry and should instead focus on emerging technological trends such as “naked DSL”, where consumers can source broadband without paying line rental.

ITSPA – the VoIP provider trade body – said it feared the code could trigger a stricter regulatory framework for VoIP than for other technologies used within the telecoms industry and that overburdening small service providers with regulatory requirements could hinder creative development.

Ofcom study confirms big gap between advertised and “real” broadband speeds

Ofcom has now published the results of its research into fixed-line broadband speeds in the UK and the results make for very interesting reading.

In a nutshell, the report confirms what consumers have known for a long while – namely that the broadband speed consumers receive is inevitably quite a lot less than the advertised “up to” broadband speed. But the report provides statistically significant data for the first time as it is based on over 60 million service performance tests in over 1,600 broadband households between November 2008 and April 2009. It also allows a robust like-for-like comparison between broadband providers (ISPs).

Charlie Ponsonby, CEO of Ofcom approved broadband and digital TV comparison service comments:

“The Ofcom study is important as it quantifies accurately for the first time actual speeds received by consumers for all the top broadband providers. This is clearly important information for the consumer to know before selecting a particular provider.”

The research was supported by a consumer perceptions survey which showed that whilst the majority of consumers were happy with the broadband speeds they received, 26% said that the broadband speed they received was not what they expected when they signed up to the service.

The research found that there were big differences in the download speeds offered by providers, with speeds depending on the technology used to deliver broadband and the capacity of the provider’s network.

The key findings are:

• Fibre optic broadband (from Virgin Media) delivered the fastest actual broadband speeds relative to advertised speeds, reflecting the fact that fibre optic broadband services do not suffer from a degradation in broadband speed relative to the distance from the telephone phone exchange

• DSL broadband providers relying on older ADSL 1 technology tended to offer the worst broadband speeds relative to the advertised speeds, with providers using the more sophisticated ADSL 2+ faring better. However ISPs using ADSL1 who invest in network capacity are able to deliver speeds as good as ADSL2+ operators

• The resulting average broadband speed received by consumers in the UK in April 2009 was 4.1Mb/secs, which is just 57% of the average ‘up to’ headline speed of 7.1 Mb/sec.

• The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mbit/s, compared to an average of 3.3Mbit/s delivered to rural consumers.

• Actual broadband speeds received varied widely by service provider. Only 9% of the sample on 8Mb/sec headline packages received actual average speeds of over 6Mbit/s and around one in five (19 per cent) received, on average, less than 2Mb/sec.

• All consumers experienced a slowdown in actual broadband speeds during peak evening hours (8-10pm), with speeds in this period around 20 per cent slower than over a 24-hour period as the effects of “contention” become most apparent.

The table below shows the average speeds received by for each ISP.

ISP and package Average speed

AOL (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 3.3 to 3.9Mbit/s

BT (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.2Mbit/s

O2 (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s)* 4.1 to 5.1Mbit/s

Orange (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.5Mbit/s

Plusnet (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s)* 3.8 to 4.9Mbit/s

Sky (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 4.0 to 4.7Mbit/s

Talk Talk (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 3.8 to 4.6Mbit/s

Tiscali (‘up to’ 8Mbit/s) 3.2 to 3.7Mbit/s

Virgin Media(‘up to’ 10Mbit/s) 8.1 to 8.7Mbit/s

As the table shows, Virgin Media’s fibre optic broadband service comes top of the table with speeds averaging about 84% of the advertised speed. Tiscali’s DSL broadband service on the other hand comes bottom and manages to deliver only just over 40% of their advertised speed.

It is very important therefore to understand what sort of technology the preferred broadband provider is able to provide at a specified location, before signing up to a long contract. As such it’s well worth talking to an impartial advisory service before taking the plunge.

Impartial advisers can undertake a detailed technology check on your local telephone exchange in order to confirm what speed you are likely to receive from each different broadband service provider and can then advise on what is the best broadband deal for you.

OfCom Regulations changing 1st August 2009

08UK – Ofcom Announce New Changes – 0870 and New Rules for 0871 (also potentially effecting 0845).

After a long wait, Ofcom have now finally now announced the changes to the charging structure for 0870 numbers and new changes to 0871 legislation.

Please contact 08UK or we will contact you again shortly to discuss what you are looking to do about this changes and how we can help you.

For detailed clarification of these changes see:-

You must now choose, if you have an 0870 number, if you are going to move to another 08 number (perhaps 0871, 0844 or the new 03 range) or stay as you are & pay the bill / minute. Let 08UK help you to get the best new numbers and lowest rates for your inbound call traffic.

Ofcom have stated that 1st August 2009 will be the date for these changes. For further details about these changes, please visit our website or Ofcom’s website

Changes that are due will effect 0870 now and 0871 numbers will be covered by PhonepayPlus (the premium rate regulator). It has been suggested by Ofcom that 0845 numbers will soon follow down the same route as 0870 numbers so it may be worth considering changes on this number range now.