investigation by M7e5VIZ

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									ACA INVESTIGATION OCTOBER 2001

 Mobile Number Portability Processes
                                                                                                               ACA Investigation October 2001
                                                                                                                               MNP Processes
                                                             TABLE OF CONTENTS


1.       OBJECTIVE ................................................................................................................................................ 3

2.       BACKGROUND .......................................................................................................................................... 3

3.       LEGISLATIVE BASIS ............................................................................................................................... 4
     THE NUMBERING PLAN ....................................................................................................................................... 4
     THE MNP CODE.................................................................................................................................................. 4
     THE ACT ............................................................................................................................................................. 5
4.       METHODOLOGY ...................................................................................................................................... 5

5.       CONSULTATION ....................................................................................................................................... 6

6.       CARRIER DISCUSSIONS AND SUBMISSIONS ................................................................................... 6

7.       ANALYSIS ................................................................................................................................................... 8

8.       FINDINGS ................................................................................................................................................... 9
     GENERAL ............................................................................................................................................................ 9
     THE COMMON NETWORK .................................................................................................................................... 9
     CARRIER SYSTEMS .............................................................................................................................................. 9
     ANTI-COMPETITIVE CONSIDERATIONS ............................................................................................................... 10
     INTER-CARRIER COMMUNICATIONS ................................................................................................................... 10
     INDIVIDUAL CARRIER OBSERVATIONS ............................................................................................................... 11
     PROPOSED ACTIONS .......................................................................................................................................... 11
9.       OUTCOMES .............................................................................................................................................. 12




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                            ACA INVESTIGATION OCTOBER 2001

                               Mobile Number Portability Processes

1. OBJECTIVE

For the ACA to conduct an investigation pursuant to Part 26 of the Telecommunications
Act 1997 (the Act) regarding:

   possible mobile carrier breach or breaches of the ACIF C570: Industry Code Mobile
    Number Portability (the Code);

   possible mobile carrier breach or breaches of the Telecommunications Numbering Plan
    1997 (the Numbering Plan);

   allegations that mobile carriers have been slow to address systemic deficiencies in their IT
    systems; and

   any competitive and consumer related implications.

2. BACKGROUND

Mobile number portability (MNP) was introduced on 25 September 2001. By Friday 28
September, around 3000 ports had been effected, and this has grown to over 7300 at the time
of writing. While the majority of ports were effected within 3 hours, there were various
reports by individual mobile carriers and carriage service providers of a significant number of
ports outstanding by Friday 28 September 2001, some of which had been submitted on the
first day of MNP.

On 29 September 20011, Telstra wrote to the ACA to request its urgent intervention to remedy
problems relating to the implementation of mobile number portability. In its letter, Telstra
expressed concerns that Optus and Vodafone:

   do not appear capable of processing ports in accordance with the timeframes specified in
    the MNP Industry Code; and

   they appeared to be prioritising ports where they are the gaining party in preference of
    ports where they are the losing party.

Furthermore, Telstra alleges that these problems have had a negative effect on consumer
perception of the MNP process and represent a barrier to porting and customer choice.

Telstra also wrote similar letters to Vodafone and Optus informing them of the concerns.




1
 Telstra informally alerted the ACA on Friday 28 September, but followed up with a formal letter of complaint
on 29 September.


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On 1 October 2001, Optus also wrote to the ACA alleging that Telstra was in breach of the
MNP Industry Code by failing to respond to broadcast notifications from Optus. The
implication of this allegation was that new Optus customers (ported from Telstra as well as
other carriers) were not receiving calls that originated on or were transit switched by the
Telstra network.

3. LEGISLATIVE BASIS

The Numbering Plan

Chapter 11 of the Numbering Plan requires carriers and CSPs to provide mobile number
portability by 25 September 2001.

In particular, section 11.8 requires a CSP or carrier that is involved in providing a portable
service to ensure that, from the implementation date, it has the technical capability required to
provide number portability for the portable service and the technology in its network to
provide number portability in a way that provides equivalent service and enables end-to-end
connectivity.

Section 11.9 (3) requires such carriers and CSPs to provide number portability to customers
as soon as practicable or at a time agreed with the customer or with the new CSP. Section
11.9 (4) allows the ACA to determine, at its discretion, the time that would be “as early as
practicable” in a particular case, or class of cases.

Section 462 of the Act requires a person who is a carrier or carriage service provider to
comply with the Numbering Plan.

The MNP Code

ACIF C570: Mobile Number Portability Industry Code (the Code) specifies agreed industry
processes for processing mobile number portability porting requests where there is a change
in mobile carrier.

The Code was registered with the ACA on 28 June 2001. This means that the ACA is
empowered to direct any relevant person or organisation that is part of a section of the
telecommunications industry to comply with the Code.

Section 5 of the Code specifies the transactions between carriers and CSPs that are required to
effect a port. Each transaction has a specified maximum response time. When these
response times are added up, a total maximum time for porting (where information is not
validly rejected by any of the participants) is 2 hours and 50 minutes.

In addition, clause 4.1.1 of the MNP Code states:

      In implementing this Industry Code, each MC (mobile carrier) or CSP must act in a
      competitively neutral and non-discriminatory manner.




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This would imply that all porting transactions are given equal priority, regardless of whether
they result in a loss of business or a gain in business. For example:

      carriers and CSPs would potentially be in breach of the Code if they prioritised
       porting-in transactions over porting-out transactions; and

      carriers would potentially be in breach of the Code if they prioritised their own CSP
       retail business over that of other resellers.

The Act

Part 26 of the Act relates to investigations. Part 26 provides for the ACA to investigate
certain matters relating to telecommunications. In particular, section 508 lists such matters,
including:

      A contravention of the Act; and

      A contravention of a code registered under Part 6.

As noted above, section 462 of the Act requires carriers and carriage service providers to
comply with the Numbering Plan.

4. METHODOLOGY

The investigation was carried out by three staff members of the ACA’s Telecommunications
Licensing Group, who were exclusively dedicated to the task for the duration of the
investigation.

Terms of reference for the investigation were developed that extended the investigation to all
mobile carriers but limited it to mobile carriers and not CSPs. There were two reasons for
this.

Firstly the investigation was to be conducted rapidly because there were complaints of
consumer detriment and anti-competitive behaviour that had significant urgency attached to
them. Consumers had been promised a porting system that would work in hours, but porting
queues were already days old. A thorough and exhaustive investigation beyond the four
mobile carriers to include all resellers would not have been practicable in the time considered
necessary for the investigation. Given the “lynch pin” role of carriers in the porting process,
any investigation of them would indicate further problems downstream with resellers.
Questions would revolve around the porting processes for all resellers.

Secondly, the investigation included all mobile carriers, and not just Optus and Vodafone
because the ACA received a subsequent complaint from Optus about Telstra. This, at a
minimum, required the ACA to investigate three out of four mobile carriers. Given that the
ACA was investigating the extent to which problems might be teething problems, the
complete inter-carrier picture was considered necessary.




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5. CONSULTATION

Following receipt of the Telstra complaint dated 29 September 2001, the Deputy Chair wrote
to all four mobile carriers to advise them that a formal investigation into porting processes
had commenced under Part 26. This was transmitted to senior staff of the carriers on
Monday 1 October 2001.

Following receipt of the Optus letter of 1 October, the terms of reference were expanded to
allow ACA staff to investigate the implementation of MNP processes and procedures by all
mobile carriers. Although the letter prompted the expansion of the terms of reference, it was
not the only reason information was sought from all mobile carriers. The carriers were
advised of this verbally, and, since the Optus letter made allegations involving a single issue
against a single carrier, and it wasn’t the only reason for expanding the terms of reference,
that letter was not generally distributed.

ACA staff sent a list of questions and data requests to carrier staff by email on the same day.

A meeting was held with Telstra staff on Monday 1 October.

Meetings were held with regulatory and operational staff of the other three mobile carriers the
next day, Tuesday 2 October.

Further refined versions of the data request were transmitted to the carriers on 2 October.

The meetings and information requests were supplemented by telephone contact for
clarification of certain matters.

A draft of this report was provided to carriers for comment on the afternoon of 4 October
2001.

6. CARRIER DISCUSSIONS AND SUBMISSIONS

All four mobile carriers submitted responses to the information requests of the ACA, although
there was some inconsistency in the data provided possibly due in part to the changes made
by the ACA.

These submissions were used in conjunction with information gained from meetings to
analyse the problems with MNP since its introduction on 25 September 2001.
The following major points were identified by carriers in submissions and discussions:

1. The Common Network: Telstra owns and operates the Common Network, which allows
   porting transactions to be relayed between mobile carriers. Telstra made an undisputed
   claim that the common network itself has not failed to perform on any occasion.

2. Outages: Outages of carrier MNP systems cause porting transactions to queue, and the
   system is susceptible to an outage of any one involved party, because all ports need to
   receive an acknowledgment from all network providers before they are complete. Even
   outages by a third party can impact on a port between two other parties. Such a problem
   forms the basis of the Optus complaint of 1 October 2001 against Telstra, claiming that
   over the weekend of 29 and 30 September, Telstra failed to condition its network in
   response to broadcast notifications of ports to Optus.


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      Vodafone has had a number of outages, but their severity has improved, along with
      recovery time. Other carriers have had outages also, with Telstra reporting outages on
      Friday and Saturday. All carriers agreed that it is vital for outages to be reported via an
      agreed process. Some carriers indicated the need for carriers to treat system slow-downs
      as a type of outage and flag their occurrence with other involved parties. (see next issue)

3. Communication of issues and lack of response: Although the process has a defined
   escalation path for faulty ports, the escalation procedures seem to have suffered from
   unexpected high levels of rejects and porting queues. This has led to accusations that
   certain carriers are not responding adequately to complaints from other carriers about
   perceived system faults. Optus in particular reported that it was carrying out its fault
   analysis on a “Pareto principle” basis (resolving system fixes that seem to result in the
   resolution of the highest number of ports), rather than on the chronological order of ports.
   Other carriers complained to the ACA that Optus had not addressed porting difficulties
   dating back to the first day of MNP. It became clear to the ACA that, despite its claims
   to the contrary, that Optus had not successfully communicated its resolution strategy to
   the other carriers. Furthermore, there were complaints that some carriers were adopting a
   defensive response to claims of system faults by other carriers.

4. Availability of staff: This issue can be associated with issue number 3 above. Two
   carriers claimed of some difficulties contacting Telstra to resolve port backlogs, including
   an alleged Telstra outage on Saturday 29 September2. These carriers also claimed that
   Telstra staff indicated that it would not be able to address the queues that resulted from the
   outage until Monday 1 October3.

5. Complexity of systems and need for more testing: All carriers agreed that the
   implementation of MNP is a complex process since it involves both internal interaction of
   carrier IT systems as well as interaction with those of other carriers. In this regard, some
   carriers claimed that it would have been beneficial to run the business pilot testing phase
   for longer. Also, the other three carriers agreed that it would have been beneficial for
   Optus to participate in the business pilot across the full range of agreed test scenarios.
   Optus did not agree with the latter point, claiming that its limited live testing was adequate
   to address any issues that were possible to address prior to launch, and that its live test
   was more successful than those of other carriers in the business pilot. Despite this, all
   carriers agreed that some problems would not have arisen until the process was launched
   under normal load conditions, and that it was inevitable that system fixes would be
   required after launch, regardless of the amount of pre-launch testing that had been
   performed.

6. High rejects due to account format: A couple of carriers accused one another of not
   supplying adequate information for other participants about the valid format for putting
   account numbers into the system. For example, one carrier shows account numbers on
   customer bills which contain hyphens, but its system rejects any porting request that has a
   hyphen in the account number field. Carriers were to provide this information prior to
   launch.
   There have been claims that the information was not provided by Vodafone or by Telstra.


2
    MNP standard hours of operation specified in the Code include Saturdays.
3
    Telstra subsequently refuted this claim.


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      Telstra has different account formats and had difficulty with this request. Also, Telstra’s
      systems have rejected ports where a “consolidated” account number was used by the
      gaining carriage service provider in the port request. Again, these problems are capable
      of being resolved by improving communication between participants.

7. Putting MNP on hold: The three carriers other than Telstra were not in favour of putting
   MNP on hold. While some are not marketing MNP pro-actively until teething problems
   are overcome, they agreed that continuing live operation would be the most practicable
   way to uncover and resolve system problems. Telstra viewed this option as a last resort if
   significant systemic problems continued.

8. Anti-competitive behaviour: Aside from the reference in the original Telstra complaint to
   the ACA, carriers were not willing to express concerns that there had been any intentional
   anti-competitive behaviour by another mobile carrier. There may be an issue about some
   resellers having system difficulties with a particular carrier, whereas these difficulties may
   not be suffered by that carrier’s own retail operations. It would appear that this may be
   an unfortunate consequence of the carrier’s own retail arm using a different interface from
   its other resellers. The effects of such difficulties will be seen in the inter-carrier
   statistics4, and if not resolved may be the subject of further investigation.

7. ANALYSIS

All carriers were asked to provide data for successful as well as queued ports (both in and
out), at close of business on each day since the implementation of MNP until 1 October.

The analysis of the data generally reflects carrier claims made in discussion with the ACA
about availability of systems, its effect on ports, and subsequent recovery action.

However, there are discrepancies between the corresponding porting queues of carriers. The
ACA is considering whether to pursue further clarification of these discrepancies.
Nevertheless, these discrepancies, in themselves, are another indication that communication
problems exist and need to be resolved. It is possible that these discrepancies may stem from
varying system implementations, IT specification interpretations, or system errors.

The data provided to the ACA differed in format and presentation, partly due to a change in
the ACA data definitions on 2 October. However, we believe that the impact of this is
minimal.

ACA staff are continuing a detailed analysis of the information received, and other issues
which arise will be discussed with the relevant mobile carriers.




4
    A breakdown by service provider was requested for queue information.


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8. FINDINGS

From the investigation undertaken, the following findings have been made.

General

All four carriers have experienced problems in the first week after implementation of MNP,
with the scale of the difficulties varying from carrier to carrier. However, indications of
improved performance were evident towards the end of the week (ie. by Monday 1 October).

The numbers of errors needing escalation and “manual workarounds” have been much greater
than anticipated.

The Common Network

The problems experienced by carriers appear to have originated within the carriers’ systems
and their operations, rather than in the common network used by carriers to exchange
messages.

The investigating team was convinced there was no critical threat to the viability of the
common network, which is the essential core of the MNP process. The fundamental integrity
of its operations has been most encouraging, conveying a high level of confidence.

Carrier Systems

At this time it is considered premature to conclude that significant systemic deficiencies
within carrier IT systems are present and that these are of sufficient magnitude to threaten the
viability of the MNP initiative.

During this investigation, no other carrier supported Telstra’s “last resort” suggestion that
consideration should be given to suspending porting activity until performance improved.
The three other carriers expressed the view that the vast majority of problems were best
categorised as “teething difficulties” and any suspension could defer resolution of the issues.

From an ACA perspective, there were no circumstances identified such as to justify any
exemptions from providing MNP nor any evidence that the teething problems could not be
remedied and the MNP service continue.

Teething difficulties were not surprising, although regrettable, given such complex IT systems
were being developed and particularly as only limited “real life” testing was undertaken. In
addition, the IT methodology requires all parties to respond to every broadcast notification
transaction for each port to ensure all carriers know where to forward calls. The limited
periods for which carriers were all fully operational at the same time have caused a significant
number of port failures and time-outs. Notwithstanding current consumer concerns, the
majority of ports have been effected within 3 hours, with some being achieved in less than 15
minutes. This represents world’s best practice, even given the difficulties that have been
encountered. In the first week, over 5000 ports have been effected.




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As a consequence, consumers have experienced highly variable service delivery, with a few
ports being delayed by as much as seven days and others taking less than 15 minutes (when
all systems are operational concurrently). The ACA considers that the number of ports
which are taking longer than 3 hours is unacceptable, and all four carriers need to address this
problem urgently.

The ACA’s overall assessment is that consumers are not receiving satisfactory service
delivery at present and all carriers need to implement remedies immediately to ensure MNP
functions well and encourages competition between mobile carriage service providers to the
benefit of Australian consumers.

In addition, shop front staff are reporting high degrees of frustration with their inability to
arrange efficient porting. Customer dissatisfaction caused by the lack of timely and accurate
information is prejudicial to creating an acceptable “customer experience”.

Anti-competitive considerations

The ACA has not been given, nor found, any evidence at this stage to suggest, prima facie,
that any carrier is acting in an anti-competitive manner, eg. effecting Port-Ins in preference to
Port-Outs. At this time, the information reported by all carriers suggests most have similar
numbers of Port-Outs and Port-Ins. In addition, all four carriers have affirmed that Port-Outs
are being handled preferentially to Port-Ins, to ensure Code and statutory compliance. While
this information is not totally conclusive (for example, it does not demonstrate whether delays
in Porting-In are addressed preferentially to those involved in Porting-Out), should any such
evidence be provided, the ACA will confer immediately with the ACCC to determine what
future action is warranted.

Inter-carrier communications

Despite the positive involvement of the Australian Communications Industry Forum in
coordinating frequent liaison and information sharing between mobile service providers, there
is a significant degree of dissatisfaction amongst most mobile carriers regarding the lack of
openness, responsiveness and timeliness of bilateral inter-carrier communications. This
relates particularly to occasions where system “outages” are not communicated immediately
to other carriers and where individual porting failures are not investigated bilaterally to
identify and remedy faults. Other procedural variations, eg. formatting of account numbers,
are also causing unnecessary rejections and could be remedied with better information
exchange. Daily bilateral meetings between some carriers are proving very effective in
resolving problems and this process should be encouraged. The apparent breakdown in some
bilateral communications is exacerbating the time required to remedy porting delays.

Recognising that ACIF has a Portability Implementation Coordination Committee these
findings and a copy of this report will be forwarded to ACIF for its advice and guidance on
future developments.




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Individual carrier observations

The following is a summary of apparent significant issues concerning each carrier’s
implementation of MNP based on input from all carriers. Several of these observations have
been refuted by the carriers concerned.

Telstra:
        systems started well, but some problems arose a few days after launch;
    difficulties with network conditioning and broadcast completions later in week;
        alleged difficulties with Telstra staff availability on Saturday.

Optus:
        systems suffered significant initial difficulties but appear to be progressively
         improving;
        other carriers argued that Business Pilot Phase testing may have reduced difficulties
         experienced by Optus;
        other carriers claimed difficulties in receiving adequate responses to fault reports in
         the first few days.
Vodafone:
        systems appear to be working well when operational;
        suffered from down-time of its own system and that of others;
        down-time issue progressively improving.
Orange:
        as a carrier, few system problems, with progressive improvement.

Proposed Actions

While some problems have been evident during the first week of MNP, there is insufficient
evidence at this stage to warrant an ACA Direction to any carrier to comply with the relevant
ACIF Code (ACIF C570: Mobile Number Portability Industry Code), as the first step in a
formal compliance action. Similarly, ACA examination of whether a breach of the
Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (the Numbering Plan) has occurred is considered
premature.

Each carrier has implemented a process to provide for MNP and the main issue for current
consideration is how the performance of that system is enhanced to provide effective MNP.

The Numbering Plan provides the power for the ACA to determine what is “as soon as
practicable” in effecting a port or class of ports. Such a determination is not considered
immediately necessary, given the infancy of the MNP activity. However, such a
determination could be considered for the future.




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There was also anecdotal evidence that some reseller CSPs (other than carriers) were
disaffected by the difficulties being experienced with systems supporting MNP and were
complaining about the lack of accurate and frank communications with relevant carriers.
This issue was outside the Terms of Reference for this investigation but may need to be
reviewed in detail if not remedied.

9. OUTCOMES

As indicated above, the ACA believes that porting times in excess of 3 hours are not
acceptable. At the same time, it is recognised that until the teething problems are rectified,
there may be some ports that exceed this time period. To allow for resolution of these
difficulties, but to safeguard public confidence with MNP, the ACA has nominated
acceptable, but temporary, boundaries of porting performance and specific requirements on
industry behaviour.

As interim criteria (for a period of 4 weeks), the ACA requests that carriers put in place
arrangements that ensure that:

      at least 90 percent of porting requests are completed within the Code specification, ie.
       a total period of less than 3 hours;

      no port takes longer than 2 days; and

      responsiveness to Port-Outs is not less than for Port-Ins.

The ACA will request that the four carriers report to it regularly, and also by exception,
against these criteria, as outlined in the body of the report, and would be expecting
progressive improvements to occur. In addition, the ACA expects that, as early as
possible—and no later than 12 November 2001 — ports would be completed by each carrier
within the timeframes specified in the Code.

In addition, the ACA expects each carrier to immediately enhance its bilateral communication
processes to ensure that the current difficulties are remedied. A number of possible
enhancements is discussed in the body of the report.

Performance against these criteria will be assessed by the ACA to determine the need for it to
take further enforcement or escalation action in relation to the Code provisions.




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