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UKCTA comments on European Commission Staff Working

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					UKCTA comments on
European Commission Staff
Working Document on The
Treatment of Voice Over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) under
the EU regulatory Framework


Version: 1   Date:
Executive Summary


   •    The application of regulation to services using VoIP technology needs to
        adhere strictly to the principle of technology neutrality.
   •    Industry should work together to ensure that an industry wide solution is
        available for accessing the emergency services.
   •    Providers of PATS that utilise other Electronic Communications Network
        Providers’ infrastructure cannot be deemed PATS at a fixed location unless
        “control” of the network has been established by agreement with the
        underlying infrastructure provider who has the ultimate responsibility for the
        integrity of the service in any given circumstance.
   •    As regards the specific issue of interconnection, it is important that the
        fundamental protections are in place so as to prevent abuses by incumbent
        operators.
   •    Number allocation policy must be objective, transparent and non-
        discriminatory.

1. Introduction

UKCTA is a trade association promoting the interests of competitive fixed-line
telecommunications companies competing against BT, as well as each other, in
the UK residential and business markets. Its role is to develop and promote the
interests of its members to Ofcom, the new communications regulator, and the
Government. Details of membership of UKCTA can be found at www.ukcta.com.

UKCTA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Commissions consultation
document entitled The Treatment of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) under the
EU regulatory Framework (“the Consultation”). The Consultation seeks views on
the interpretation and application of the EC Electronic Communications directives
as described in the Consultation document.
UKCTA is pleased to provide specific comments on various aspects of the
Consultation. . Our comments are arranged to reflect the sections and order of the
Consultation document. We would, however, like to make one general point on the
use of the term “VoIP”. While the document uses it as a generic term to describe
services that are wholly or partially IP-based, UKCTA believe that VoIP is a
technology and not a services and care should be taken when regulation is more
specific and requires more precise application. UKCTA therefore believes that the
application of regulation to services using VoIP technology needs to adhere strictly
to the principle of technology neutrality.



2. Electronic Communications Services, Publicly Available Telephone
Service and Universal Service

UKCTA agrees broadly with the section of the guidelines that relate to market
entry and applicable regulation, and agree that a technically neutral application of
regulation is the right approach. Furthermore we recognise that the Authorisation

 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   1
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
Directive, and the EU Regulatory framework in general allow market entry without
prior permission but that rights and obligations relevant to status as either a
provider of PATS or ECS, are applicable.

We recognise that this regulation was introduced to lower barriers to entry by
removing obligations to submit an application to enter a market or markets.
However although NRAs may require market participants to provide a notification
of their intention to enter the market place, we do not believe that this necessarily
extends to providing a receipt or any acknowledgement of the scope, type,
authentication or performance of the provider's services. Consequently we query
whether the proposal in the draft Guidelines which states that "NRA's could
consider providing, on request, a standardised declaration to those suppliers that
undertake to provide publicly available telephone services in accordance with the
applicable conditions in the general authorisation" is able to be employed due to
the requirements of the existing framework.

However, if it is deemed necessary to identify providers of PATS, any scheme to
do so would need to be transparent, with objective criteria identified. Furthermore
it should not be a surrogate “licence application process” as this is expressly
forbidden under the EU framework. Therefore UKCTA urges further thought on
how best to establish a means of identifying PATS providers.

UKCTA are keen to support the emergence of innovative products providing value
added products and services to the consumer. However, this should not be to the
detriment of the consumers safety by relaxing essential service requirements and
standards. To avoid this UKCTA proposes that industry stakeholders address
some of the potential issues to find technical solutions to any service challenges
that may arise.


3. Universal Service

UKCTA agree with the Commission's observations on this topic. In summary:

(1) Universal Service Obligation operators (USOs) can use any technology they
consider suitable, including ‘VoIP,’ to provide a service. Provided the resulting
service meets relevant requirements (e.g. being PATS), the technological details
are irrelevant.

(2) The fact that an operator is a USOO does not prevent it from providing other
new services outside the USO. VoIP is no exception.

(3) Funding of USO, and any associated levy, should be technology neutral.

We not that the scope of the USO is to be reviewed in 2005 in any event and
suggest that detailed discussion regarding VoIP are considered in this review.

4. Integrity and availability of the Network



 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   2
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
4.1 Integrity and availability at Fixed Locations.

The EU proposes that Member States apply article 23 of the Universal Service
Directive (USD) so as to recognise that only service providers that have control of,
or ownership of, the underlying transport infrastructure are able to ensure the
availability of PATS in cases of force majeure.

UKCTA agrees with this proposal, but believes the definition of what actually
constitutes “control” is unclear and needs be explored further.

In the UK, Article 23 of the Universal Service Directive is currently implemented by
way of General Condition 3, “Proper and Effective Functioning of the Network”.

The UK implementation of Article 23 of the USD differs somewhat from the original
Directive text. USD Article 23 requires “all necessary steps to ensure integrity of
the public telephone network and availability of the public telephone network in
cases of force majeure” and “all reasonable steps to ensure” uninterrupted access
to emergency services, whereas General Condition 3 requires that “all reasonably
practicable steps” are taken.

The difference between taking “reasonably practicable steps” and “ensuring”,
allows UK providers of PATS to negotiate a contractual means of having “control”
over the underlying transport infrastructure where they don’t have physical control
over, or own, the underlying transport infrastructure themselves.

This distinction is necessary if there is to be effective competition in providing
PATS over different access technologies.

The high costs associated with employing ubiquitous local access networks are
likely to impede the wide scale introduction of multiple variants of local access
technology, thus limiting the choice available to consumers. In order to combat
this limitation and foster effective competition it will be necessary to encourage the
introduction of PATS across already available access networks. This will be
achievable if the PATS provider has some control, whether physical or contractual,
over the underlying transport infrastructure.

However, it should be made clear to providers of PATS that utilise other ECNPs
infrastructure that the service cannot be deemed PATS “at a fixed location” unless
“control” of the network and ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the service in
any given circumstance have been established by agreement with the underlying
infrastructure provider of who has ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the
service in any given circumstance.

4.2 Nomadic Users

UKCTA agrees with the interpretation that some VoIP services may use ‘nomadic’
access to the public telephone network and as such do not seem to fall into the
category of PATS at a fixed location.


 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   3
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
Nevertheless, UKCTA believes nomadic services will, given time, be capable of
complying with the Universal Service Directive definition of PATS. However
service providers involved would have to configure their systems specifically to do
so.

UKCTA can see no reason why nomadic Voice services available over IP could
not fall under the definition of ‘publicly available telephone service’ as defined in
article 2 of the USD, if the service is available to the public for originating and
receiving national and international calls with access to emergency services
through a number in a national or international telephone numbering plan, and
meets the required obligations.

UKCTA shares the concern that if nomadic services are unable to meet this
definition and access to emergency services is not guaranteed, then due
consideration must be given to what the minimum essential requirements should
be required for such nomadic services.

4.3 In-line powering of terminals

The proposal for Member States to review current legal obligations regarding in-
line powering of terminals is particularly welcomed by UKCTA. We also welcome
the proposal for NRAs to require suppliers of VoIP services that include access to
the public telephone network, to inform their customers about the impact of power
failures on their service, particularly where this differs from traditional telephone
services.

Within the UK a requirement for in-line powering of terminals has been an
obligation in regard to PATS for some time. This obligation has been implemented
in a number of ways over the years but with questionable effectiveness.

In one particular example, where the obligation was implemented was the case of
a fixed radio access service which required powering by mains electricity in order
to operate. The obligation for in-line powering was met by having a re-chargeable
battery back up system. This was notably ineffective, as the battery back up had
extremely limited usable power. This often resulted in customers complaining of
loss of service as they had inadvertently unplugged their system and the battery
back up had expired. Although the accompanying user guide that detailed both
the system requirements and back up capabilities of the battery, this did not stop
large numbers of customers finding themselves unable to use the service when
they tried to do so.

However customers who found themselves without service were able to find
alternative means of contacting that particular PATS providers’ call centre to
complain, this demonstrates the high availability of alternate means to make
phone calls where loss of power has occurred. This brings into question whether
an obligation for in-line power is an obsolete requirement based on a PSTN-centric
concept of telecoms and/or whether it is a proportionate requirement if the ultimate
aim is to ensure access to emergency services.


 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   4
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
Alternative means to call emergency services where a power outage has
temporarily caused a PATS service to fail are widely available and it is right that
they are taken into account when considering resiliency of individual services.

5. Emergency Services

UKCTA agrees irrespective of how a telephony service may be classified or
operated. UKCTA therefore that access to Emergency Services is extremely
important for citizens believe that the industry should work together to develop a
solution that ensures future access to Emergency Services, (including automatic
provision of location information to the emergency services operators) regardless
of whether the service is defined as a PATS or and ECS. UKCTA agree with the
Commission’s proposal to provide customers with as much information about the
provision of access to emergency services as possible.

6. Routing of Emergency Calls

UKCTA refer to its views in 5 and suggest that the industry works towards being
able to provide practical, functional routing of calls to the emergency services and
accurate provision of location information with the aim to minimise this as a
potential barrier to entry.

7. Privacy and Lawful Intercept

The general principles of privacy and lawful interception are detail and complex
and need to be dealt with in a separate, detailed consultation.

8. Interconnection and Interoperability
In general, UKCTA agrees with the Consultation’s statements regarding
interconnection. However we would like to make the following general points,
which should be taken into account for determining the regulatory regime for VoIP:

(1) VoIP services will meet the same hurdles faced by more traditional services;
and regulatory intervention will continue to be required. In particular:

        (a) The implications of “automatic” designation of all fixed operators as
        having SMP in market 9 (the fixed single network termination market)
        should be reconsidered having regard to the principle of proportionality.

        (b) The proposed deregulation of transit market should be seriously
        reconsidered both at a European level and locally within countries. If more
        players enter the voice telephony wishing to offer any-to-any connectivity
        they will not all interconnect with each other but use transit. The transit
        market may therefore play a critical role in the development of VoIP
        services.

        (c) Fit for purpose access products with firm service levels and migration
        arrangements are key for the successful provision of VoIP services.

 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   5
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
         (d) Any-to-any VoIP services will mean that VoIP traffic will have to
         terminate on mobile networks. Current arrangements mean that VoIP
         providers are unlikely to be able to offer flat rate arrangements or will raise
         the price of these flat rate plans to competitively unattractive levels in order
         to encompass the possibility of VoIP customers calling many mobile
         customers. Mobile termination rates will play a critical role in the
         emergence of any-to-any VoIP services and need to be considered by
         regulators.

(2) As regards the specific issue of interconnection, it is important that the
fundamental protections are in place so as to prevent abuses by incumbent
operators. In particular:

         (a) All public network operators have a right and a duty to negotiate
         interconnection where it is reasonably requested. VoIP suppliers should
         therefore be able to make use of standard interconnection offers (although
         currently IP-IP interconnection is unregulated and therefore must be
         commercially negotiated).

         (b) Remedies on local access network providers (depending on their size
         and the countervailing buying power of the operator buying termination at
         wholesale level or by the retail end-user) should be retained. This includes
         retention of obligations on local access network providers that are
         dominant on the retail market to provider caller (pre)selection to other
         market players.

         (c) These rules are technologically neutral and equally applicable to all
         service providers, including those using VoIP technology.

         (d) The principle of reciprocity should remain one of the guiding principles
         in the development of VoIP services.

9. Numbering

UKCTA agrees with the statement in the Consultation that the number allocation
policy should be objective, transparent and non-discriminatory manner. This
should ensure that:

   i.    equivalent services provided over different technologies are treated the
         same;

  ii.    different service providers offering equivalent service are treated the
         same;

  iii.   that all providers understand the application process and timescales by
         which numbers are allocated.

However in addition to objective, transparent and non-discriminatory processes,
number allocation policy should promote and support NRA's general duties and

 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   6
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association
polices. For instance NRAs have specific European duties (Framework Directive
Article 8.2) to both "ensure that users, including disabled users, derive maximum
benefit of choice, price and quality" and "encourage efficient investment in
infrastructure, and promote innovation" as well as the "effective management of
numbering resources". NRAs must balance these and other objectives to ensure
that the most appropriate number allocation criteria is adopted.
VoIP is a technology rather than a service. UKCTA members believe that numbers
should identify the service characteristics and not the technology used to deliver
the service. UKCTA members also have concerns that number allocations based
on current service offerings and capabilities may quickly become time expired,
leading to subsequent changes in allocation policy and possible customer
disruption and confusion. UKCTA therefore believes that number allocation must
be forward thinking to prevent consumer inconvenience at a later stage.




 Comments on European Commission Staff Working Document on The Treatment of Voice Over Internet   7
 Protocol (VoIP) under the EU regulatory Framework
 UK Competitive Telecommunications Association

				
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