In this consultation document, Ofcom re-examines the regulatory framework for Number Translation Services (NTS).
The current arrangements for NTS enable calls to 08 and 09 non-geographic telephone numbers to be used by businesses and other organisations to provide an increasingly wide range of telephone services e.g. dial-up pay-as-you-go internet access, telephone banking, tele-voting and business contact services.
In parallel with this review of the NTS regulatory framework, Ofcom has carried out a market review of the NTS call termination market in the UK (the NTS Call Termination Market Review). The proposals as a result of that review will be published separately.
Ofcom estimates that UK consumers spent 1.25 billion on NTS retail calls from fixed lines in 2003. This represents 19% of all retail call revenues made from fixed lines. An additional 202m was paid to Communications Providers (CPs) by NTS service providers (SPs) for the provision of freephone NTS calls, providing an estimate of the total size of the market (excluding revenues earned by mobile CPs for the origination of NTS calls) of 1.46 billion.
Calls to basic rate (0845/0844) numbers account for approximately two-thirds of NTS call minutes and around 44% of NTS revenues for calls from fixed lines. The majority of these calls are data calls made for the purpose of accessing Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) internet access services. Freephone calls accounted for a further 14% of revenues, higher rate (0870/0871) calls for an additional 15% and premium rate (09) calls for the remaining 28%. Total NTS call volumes fell marginally between 2002 and 2003, partly due to a shift from PAYG to broadband internet access, but premium rate call volumes rose sharply.
NTS calls provide a micro-payment mechanism for a wide variety of value added services, as well as a means of access. With the exception of freephone calls, a significant proportion of NTS retail call revenues is passed on to the SP receiving the call over a quarter on average for 0845/0844 calls, over a half for 0870/0871 calls and around three-quarters for premium rate calls made from fixed lines.