NGCS Commercial Working Group – 15 September 2011, 3.00pm Ofcom

Meeting notes & Actions


  • Sean Hartley, BT Wholesale (Chair)
  • Justin Hornby, Cable&Wireless Worldwide
  • Elizabeth Gannon, Ofcom
  • Laurent Pariat, C&W
  • Jim Moulder, Global Crossing
  • Charles Wong, Global Crossing
  • Rickard Granberg, Talk Talk
  • Alistair Dixon, Colt
  • Sandra Reid, Virgin Media
  • Andrew Wileman, Virgin Media
  • Peter Farmer, Gamma
  • Robin Vernon, Telefonica O2
  • Kim Hilton, Everything Everywhere
  • Andy Martin, IV Response
  • Kath Embleton, BT Wholesale
  • Don Wilson, Vodafone
  • Louise Lancaster, Magrathea
  • Grant Forsyth, Sky
  • Nicola Robbins, BT Retail
  • Yulia Kossykh, Three
  • Lesa Green, Kcom (on the phone)
  • Sarah Godfrey, 4D (on the phone)


Sean Hartley (SH) noted the draft minutes had been circulated. There were no comments on these so they were accepted as final.

Sean noted that the agenda for this meeting was the feedback from the technical group and the issues register.

Technical Group questions

Sean Hartley (BT) noted that the technical group had gone through the list of questions in detail to agree whether or not they were relevant. He noted the intention today was not to answer those questions but to confirm that the commercial working group was happy with some of the assumptions being made.

Kim Hilton (EE) raised a query about the purpose of the technical questions and who was answering them, she said there seemed to have been a departure from the original intention of the group as stated in Ofcoms original slides. Sean noted that the questions were intended as a list of all the issues that needed to be considered when making an assessment of what the costs might be for changes to billing systems under an unbundled tariff structure. Elizabeth Gannon (Ofcom) noted that Ofcom would use the questions/assumptions as a reference point for its bilateral conversations with stakeholders around the potential costs associated with changes to billing systems for the unbundled tariff approach. She said that there were a range of different types of questions within the document, some were for Ofcom to answer, or consult on, others were specifically industry related processes that Ofcom was not necessarily going to get involved in, but the intention was to have a central repository of all the relevant questions to be considered as part of these changes. Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that in previous consultations Ofcom had sometimes been asking the wrong questions therefore it was a useful exercise to flag up to Ofcom what the relevant questions were.

On the retail billing questions, Sean noted that some of these had been turned into assumptions and these were primarily for Ofcom to answer, in particular the question of whether there would be a requirement to present a disaggregated AC and SC. Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk) noted that from Talk Talks perspective this option would be incredibly difficult to implement and he had understood Ofcom was open to considering other options, for example presenting a single charge (of AC plus SC). Don Wilson (Vodafone) noted that another option was presenting a summary of the AC for all calls and then a summary of the SCs. He noted that this option would still have technical implications in terms of billing systems. Nicola Robbins (BT Retail) noted that BT Retail was not convinced that separate line items for the AC and SC were required and it had set that out to Ofcom in its consultation response.

Sean noted that on rounding, the technical group were recommending that there needed to be a consistent process and he suggested this was something that should be added to the issues register for the commercial working group to consider. Andy Martin (IV Response) noted that some billing systems only had one rounding functionality and therefore how rounding occurred on geographic calls should be looked at. It was noted that no-one in the group appeared to round to 30 seconds.

Sean noted that Time of Day issues had already been discussed in the CWG, and the TWG was also recommending here that TOD should be avoided because of potential technical issues.
On the Payphone Access Charge, Sean noted the TWG had assumed that this was going to remain the same. Nicola Robbins (BT Retail) noted that there were issues with applying the unbundled tariff to all payphones, not just BT ones. She noted that BT had requested to Ofcom that these were excluded.

On call price capping, Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that the questions did not identify who should be responsible for call price capping. He noted that the questions sometimes seemed to use SP and TCP interchangeably, whereas it was important to be clear on who the responsibility lay with. Andy Martin (IV Response) noted that the TCP was responsible currently and questioned why that would change. Pete noted that if the cap was on the AC and the SC then the OCP would have to be responsible. Don Wilson (Vodafone) noted that during the discussions at the TWG it had been assumed that the cap would only be on the SC, and that if there was a continuation of the current PP+ regulations then the obligation would be on the TCP or SP.

Kath Embleton (BT Wholesale) noted that having a cap on the SC would be a commercial decision by the TCP, not as a result of regulation by Ofcom. The only regulatory cap would be on the ppm SC.

Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that there would need to be agreements around clawback and a defined standard that made clear whose responsibility it was one way or another.
On ppm and ppc call structures, Sean noted that this had been discussed as part of the CWG as well. It was noted that Ofcom had expressed a preference for the AC to be ppm only. Nicola Robbins (BT Retail) noted that for calls used for voting, which were very short duration calls, it made sense to have a ppc rate for the AC. The group agreed that there was an argument for the AC to be able to be ppc as well, where the SC was ppc (so long as it was the same rate).

On higher rate PRS and pre-call announcements (PCAs), Sean noted that Ofcom had indicated that it was only considering PCAs in relation to higher rate PRS calls, and the TWG had fed back that Ofcom needed to indicate in its next document what the direction of travel was for other ranges/issues not being considered in that document so that there would not be a requirement for further billing system changes at a later stage. Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that if the originator was responsible for the PCA there was an issue around identifying legitimate machine to machine services, whereas if the TCP was responsible, there was a question around how the originator would ensure those calls were free. Nicola Robbins (BT Retail) noted that if this was a new requirement for higher rate tariff calls it would be easier for the TCP to tell the SP when they applied for a range with that higher rate, then they could just advise that a PCA was needed. She noted it would not have the same issues as when Ofcom tried to require PCAs on existing ranges.

On international freephone, Elizabeth Gannon (Ofcom) noted that her view was that these calls were outside of the scope of the current consultation, but Ofcom would confirm that in the next document. Sean Hartley noted that on that basis, it was assumed that international freephone would stay as it was.

On internationally originated calls, it was noted that Q33 was a reflection of a BT specific position. Justin Hornby (C&W) and Andy Martin (IV Response) noted that they did not agree with this assumption.

It was noted that question 35 (OCP/TCP) related to bespoke service charges, and was an assumption that there would not be ladder pricing under an unbundled approach.
On the process for notifying service charges, it was noted that this had been discussed in detail at the last meeting. Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk) asked for clarification that only the TCP could notify price changes, not the SP, as the wording seemed to suggest. The group agreed that the question should be amended to state TCP. It was noted that the SP would have to apply to the TCP first and then the TCP would notify the change. It was noted that if a number was ported only the range-holder would be able to change the price of that number, so effectively a TCP would not be able to change the price of a ported number.

On transit, Sean noted that the questions covered the range of issues that had been discussed at the CWG, but it was clear that there was not going to be a consensus on this issue. Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk) questioned whether, given that the TCP would be required to accurately pass through the SC every time, there should be an obligation on the TCP to interconnect directly with the OCP. The group noted that this was unlikely to be practical given the hundreds of providers that werent directly interconnected, and that it would do away with transit entirely.
On operator assistance and DQ connected calls, Nicola Robbins (BT Retail) noted that the current wording suggested that the unbundled tariff would not apply to these calls. Sean Hartley noted that that was not what had been discussed at the TWG. Don Wilson (Vodafone) noted that the principal should be that the caller paid the rate of the first call, whether that was 118 or the operator number. Sean noted that he would amend the wording.

Kim Hilton (EE) noted that it was important that all relevant technical questions should be included within this list, so that they could take them away and discuss with their technical staff. She questioned whether operational issues around potential closure of number ranges should also be considered within this document. It was noted that this might be a useful issue to discuss at another NGCS Focus Group meeting.

Sean Hartley noted that he would update the technical questions with the comments made at this meeting and asked for people to comment on that version. Kim Hilton (EE) asked if they could be given a further week to consider that version of the document, as Elizabeths previous email had asked for comments by next week. Sean agreed.

Issues Register

Sean Hartley asked for comments on the issues register. Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk) noted he had sent through some comments by email to Elizabeth and Sean.

Kim Hilton (EE) said that she had several concerns with the document. She noted that it did not track the issues back to when they were discussed, e.g. at which meeting. She also noted there were several unattributed comments and it was not clear who had made which points. She was concerned that it did not reflect agreed industry position on these issues, because at no point during the meetings had they agreed what would go onto the issues register. She acknowledged that Ofcom might find it useful to have a summary document of the meetings, but she felt that the meeting notes themselves were a more accurate representation of the discussions and was concerned that any summary of that would not fully reflect the differences of views that had been discussed. She also noted that there was a danger that the register was written with a BT slant.

Sean Hartley noted that the intention was for the register to pick out the key points that had been made, it was not making recommendations, just summarising the arguments. He agreed that it would be useful to track the issues to which meetings they were discussed in. He also noted that he had not intentionally written the paper from a BT position, but acknowledged there was potential for him to tend to look at issues from a BT perspective.

Don Wilson (Vodafone) suggested that given that Ofcom would find it useful to have a summary document it could refer to, then it would be better for Ofcom itself to prepare a summary of what it had understood from the meetings, and then the group could comment on that paper and confirm whether or not Ofcom had accurately understood all the issues. Kim Hilton (EE) agreed that it might be more useful for Ofcom to collate its understanding of the issues.

Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that the tabular format made it difficult to read, and a set of questions or assumptions, similar to the technical questions, might be more effective.

Don Wilson (Vodafone) noted also, that as currently drafted, it was unlikely to be useful as a reference point for other people reading Ofcoms next consultation document.
Andy Martin (IV Response) noted that Ofcom could set out what it expected unbundling would look like, starting from the consumer perspective and working down into the wholesale level. He noted that he thought the issues register did currently cover most of the points that had been discussed in the meeting.

Kath Embleton (BT Wholesale) noted that the meetings had been useful and had brought about a lot of useful debate. Pete Farmer (Gamma) also noted that the approach of discussing these issues with industry ahead of Ofcoms consultation was preferable to these issues only coming up after a consultation had already been issued.
Pete Farmer (Gamma) suggested that the Ofcom summary should also make clear what issues Ofcom considered were within its remit and that it was intending to consult on, or take a decision on in the next consultation document.

Elizabeth Gannon (Ofcom) agreed to draft a document as described by the group and circulate it ahead of the next meeting for comments and discussion. She noted that there were still some issues where Ofcom was looking for further clarification. She noted that for example, on the number of price points, there had been a lot of discussions but Ofcom was not clear on the best approach for deciding on these price points. She noted that Ofcom might therefore put a proposal to the group as part of that document.

The group briefly discussed the issue of migration to the unbundled tariff regime, in particular whether BT would need to make amendments to its SIA. Sean Hartley (BT) noted he had previously expressed concerns that there would be contractual problems if BT just changed all their existing contracts. Kath Embleton (BT) noted Ofcom had in the past directed BT to make changes to its SIA so that could be an option.

Don Wilson (Vodafone) noted that someone was going to have to decide what SCs were going to be and how current prices would be migrated to those SCs.
Pete Farmer (Gamma) noted that in its contract with, for example Talk Talk, it would have a reference to BTs price list and therefore those contracts would have to change if BT no longer was the central reference point. Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk) noted that BT would still have to publish its transit rates so questioned why it wouldnt publish the other rates as well.

Kim Hilton (EE) noted that fundamental to the unbundled tariff approach was that the OCP was able to perfectly pass through the SC and have access to that SC, and notification of when it changed.
Kath Embleton (BT Wholesale) noted that it had to be considered that regulations were likely to apply to all TCPs under this approach, not just BT, therefore there was a question about why it should be BT that was responsible for holding SC data.

Justin Hornby (C&W) suggested that one additional issue that had not yet been discussed was the issue of PP+ regulation of 0871, and Ofcoms suggestion in the December Consultation that 0844 could also be brought under that regulation. Pete Farmer (Gamma) highlighted that there was an issue anyway that 0844 could be brought under the PRS definition if charges were above 5ppm. Andy Martin (IV Response) noted that he strongly objected to PP+ regulation of 0871, and any suggestion of similar regulations on the other ranges. He noted the payment of the levy seemed disproportionate to the amount of problems on the range.

Rickard Granberg (Talk Talk ) noted that PP+ regulation did not necessarily ensure accurate advertising of prices. He had previously provided PP+ with several examples of problems with 0871 advertising but had received no response. He noted that the question of how that advertising of the service charge would be regulated was important, because any complaints were likely to fall to the OCP first, because they would be the customers first point of contact, and therefore the OCP would be relying on the SP to advertise the SC correctly. The group agreed that this issue should be discussed at the next meeting.

Kim Hilton (EE) asked for a clear agenda to be sent out for the next meeting at least a week in advance. Elizabeth and Sean agreed to do that.

Date of next meeting: 29 September 2.00pm, Ofcom

Action points

  • Sean Hartley (BT) to circulate an updated version of the technical questions and give a week for comments.
  • Elizabeth Gannon (Ofcom) to circulate a document summarising Ofcoms view of the discussions at the CWGs, setting out which issues which would be within its next consultation document and it would be deciding on.
  • Sean & Elizabeth, to circulate an agenda for the next meeting a week in advance.