10 October 2005 is the deadline set by the President of URTiP for mobile operators to start provision of the number portability service by means of a central database.
Provisions of the new Telecommunications Law in force since 3 September 2004 defined the subscribers' right to retain their assigned number when changing a mobile operator (concept known as number portability).
At a substantiated request addressed by an operator to the President of URTiP the actual exercise of the said right may be suspended for a specified period of time but only if the applicant’s network is lacking in relevant technical capabilities.
After considering the requests of Polkomtel, Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa and PTK Centertel the President of URTiP recognized that the mobile networks were not ready for implementation of number portability. For this reason on 17 November 2004 the President of URTiP issued for each operator a decision resulting in the suspension of subscribers’ right in this regard until 31 December 2004.
Still, the three mobile operators raised that more time was needed to select and implement an appropriate technical model. In their appeals against the above-mentioned decisions they pointed out that additional 18 up to 28 months were needed before the number portability service could be provided to subscribers.
The regulatory authority did not agree on these demands. In the course of consultation with the operators the President of URTiP on several occasions expressed his concern about the prolonged inapplication of the provisions of Telecommunications and subscribers’ rights deriving there from. Moreover, President of URTiP pointed out that for the benefit of Polish telecom market the best solution would be to put in place a uniform technical model of number portability which would encompass both mobile and fixed networks.
The operators agreed that in a long term the most efficient model of number portability would be a central database (a central register of ported numbers). Such solution is also in line with the instructions included in the position paper of the President of URTiP on number portability published in May 2004 – therefore, before the relevant Telecommunications Law provisions became effective.
9 months more are needed
At the turn of January and February 2005 three mobile operators asked in their request addressed to the President of URTiP to suspend subscribers’ rights regarding number portability for a period of about 9 months.
The operators argued that implementation of a central system was a complicated process and that President of URTiP should also take into account the time needed for purchasing, configuration as well as integration of new specialist telecom devices by means of which the number portability would be carried out. Moreover, the operators informed that the arguments put forward and schedules of adaptation of network had been drawn up jointly with the representatives of Telecomunikacja Polska S.A. (Polish incumbent). It will enable to include also the subscribers of fixed telephony in the central database.
Schedule proposed by the operators provides for the following activities, necessary for successful implementation of number portability by means of a central database:
President of URTiP decided to take into consideration the new requests made by the operators. Consequently, on 21 February 2005 decisions were issued on the prolongation of suspension of subscribers’ rights to retain the assigned number when switching to another mobile operator until 10 October 2005.
According to Mr. Witold Graboś, during this additional period the operators will be able to adapt fully their networks to carry out number portability by means of a central database. Moreover, elaboration of relevant technical conditions enabling the exercise of similar rights by the subscribers of fixed networks could be sped up.
Central database (central register of numbers)
The implementation of number portability will be technically possible when using the following models described in the position paper of the President of URTiP of May 2004:
ACQ – All Call Query – in this model prior to each call set up the originating exchange sends a query to the database (centrally replicated) from which it receives information on the target exchange currently serving the called subscriber.
QoR – Query on Release - in this model the call is initially routed to a donor network. If the donor exchange concludes that the number was ported, it returns information that it is impossible to set up the call. Then the originating exchange sends a query to the central database of ported numbers and on the basis of a received answer sets up the call to a recipient network.
OR – Onward Routing – in this model the network of a calling subscriber typically routes the call to a donor network based on programmed information concerning the assigned numbering ranges). The donor network concludes that the called number was ported, searches the internal database for a current number of a given subscriber and then sets up the call to a reciepient network. The donor network resources are used all the way through the call as a part of a set-up link.
In case of ACQ model the originating exchange prior to each call set up sends a query to a database (central or locally replicated) from which it receives information on the routing number necessary for the proper direction of phone calls.
The above-mentioned models require the creation of a central database of ported numbers and the connection with the database of all public telephone network operators. In case of mobile operators, their networks might communicate with the copy of the database [managed by the operator or service provider via signal transfer point (STP)].
According to the President of URTiP the provision of number portability by means of a central database would allow to guarantee a required quality of service without significantly slowing down the call set-up as well as a proper management of numbering resources.
The purpose of the above-mentioned solution is to ensure the relevant technical conditions so that the central database put in place to introduce number portability in mobile networks might also be used in fixed networks.
President of URTiP shared the opinion of mobile operators that ACQ model might constitute a long term solution for number portability while QoR method may serve as transitional one. Moreover, the above-mentioned models might enable the parallel application of ACQ and QoR model and result in easy migration between these two variants independently for each of the operators.