Number Translation Services
Number Translation Services (‘NTS’) calls are calls to numbers identified in the National Telephone Numbering Plan as Special Services numbers (broadly, numbers that start with 08 or 09).
NTS numbers are used by organisations and individuals to provide a wide range of services, including sales lines, customer service/enquiries and recorded information services. They are also widely used for dial-up pay-as-you-go internet services.
NTS numbers are examples of non-geographic numbers in that the number dialled does not relate to a specific geographic location but instead relates to a particular service. At a technical level, the NTS number dialled by a caller is normally ‘translated’ by the network to a geographic number to deliver the call to its destination. The translation process can include additional network-based call routing features that help businesses to handle calls more efficiently. These features include distribution of calls between multiple sites, routing calls according to the caller’s location, recorded announcements and disaster recovery.
A key feature of NTS is that the regulatory framework makes revenue sharing possible between the terminating communications provider (i.e. the provider that hosts the NTS number) and the organisation or individual receiving the call. In this way, the regulatory regime supports the use of NTS as a micro-payment mechanism.
Retail prices for NTS calls vary by number range according to the designations in the National Telephone Numbering Plan. For the 08 range, call charges from BT lines range from free to the caller for calls to 080 Freephone numbers up to 10p per minute or per call for calls to 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers. Calls to numbers in the 09 range (from BT lines) are normally charged at over 10p per minute and up to £1.50p per minute. Charges from other networks are not regulated and callers should therefore contact their provider for rates.
Ofcom's NTS policy review
Ofcom concluded a major policy review in April 2006 that will result in a series of changes to the regulatory arrangements for 08 numbers over the next two years. The changes are described in the final policy statement.
As part of its policy review, Ofcom undertook two consultations:
- Number Translation Services: Options for the Future, published in October 2004; and
- Number Translation Services: A Way Forward, published in September 2005.
As part of the policy review, Ofcom consulted separately on a proposal to require communications providers to give equal prominence to their NTS and geographic call charges. The policy statement was published in April 2006 and the new rules took effect in August 2006.
Changes to the Way 0870 Calls are Charged
On 23 April 2009 Ofcom published a statement that it would make major changes to the way that 0870 calls are charged with effect from 1 August 2009.
Additional Consumer Protection Provided by Premium Rate Services Regulation
Some NTS services are also subject to Premium Rate Services Regulation (‘PRS Regulation’) which provides additional protection for consumers. PRS regulation is currently applied to services operating on 09 numbers and certain other services. See our Premium Rate Services page for further details.
In the NTS Policy review, Ofcom concluded that PRS regulation should be extended to some services using 08 numbers. As a result, Ofcom extended PRS regulation to include all Sexual Entertainment Services regardless of call price and required those using numbers in the 08 range to move to 09 ranges designated for Sexual Entertainment Services. The policy statement implementing these changes was published on 8 March 2007.
In the NTS Policy Review Ofcom also proposed to extend PRS regulation to the most expensive 08 numbers (those starting 0871, 0872 and 0873) in order to improve consumer protection and pricing transparency. Ofcom published a statement confirming this change in February 2009. PhonepayPlus will start regulating these numbers from 1 August 2009.
Other Ofcom documents relating to NTS
In October 2004, Ofcom published a consultation document on an NTS call termination market review.
In October 2004, Ofcom published a final direction and explanatory memorandum relating to the method used by BT to calculate its wholesale conveyance charges for NTS calls which originate on or transit the BT network for termination on NTS numbers of other Terminating Communications Providers. The direction required BT to introduce a new billing system (known as INCA/ CLI) by 28 February 2006 and to withdraw the NCD methodology previously used.
In September 2005, Ofcom published a statement setting out its methodology for calculating the NTS retail uplift charge and Premium Rate Services bad debt surcharge and confirming its decision to set SMP services condition AA4(f) to regulate charges for the NTS retail uplift and to modify SMP services condition AA11 to regulate the Premium Rate Services bad debt surcharge.
In July 2006, Ofcom concluded its review of telephone numbering. Amongst other things this set out plans to simplify the descriptions of 08 numbers so that they can be more easily understood by consumers and to introduce a new type of number starting with 03 for those businesses that require a non-geographic number but do not wish to charge consumers a premium to call them. Details are available in the policy statement.
Committee of Advertising Practice guidance on advertising call charges for 08 numbers
Prior to July 2004, the 0845 and 0870 ranges were designated as ‘local rate’ and national rate’ in the National Telephone Numbering Plan. In July 2004, Ofcom modified the designations to reflect the fact that most callers now pay higher charges for 0845 and 0870 calls than for calls to geographic numbers. At the same time, Ofcom advised that the ‘local rate and ‘national rate’ terms may be misleading and should no longer be used to describe 0845 and 0870 call charges.
Ofcom subsequently contributed to Advertising Standards Authority/Committee of Advertising Practice (‘ASA’/’ CAP’) guidance on advertising call charges for 084 and 087 numbers which also advises that the ‘local rate’ and ‘national rate’ terms should not be used.
The CAP guidance is available on the ASA website.