martedì 10 luglio 2007

The end of the illegal Mobile VAS monopoly?

The Authority intervenes and deliberates: interoperable and public domain 4XXXX numerations

The Authority for Telecommunications (AGCOM) has published Friday, July 6th 2007 on its website the deliberation n. 44/2007/CIR (about to be published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale).

In this deliberation, concerning a revision of the numeration plan in the telecommunications sector and implementation discipline, the AGCOM opens a public consultation while expressing its own valuations and directives regarding the revision of the numeration plan as regulated by the deliberation n. 9/2003/CIR.

In particular, concerning the decade 4 numerations such as 4XXXX currently in use by the four Italian carriers TIM, Vodafone, Wind and H3G with serious doubts about the legality of such use, the AGCOM is starting a revision of the law that regulates the assigning of the right to use said decade 4 and determines specific uses for the category.

Below the complete text of the deliberation from July 6th 2007 and concerning the decade 4 numerations, yet to be published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale:


9. Rules for assigning and use of decade 4 numeration
At present, the use of decade 4 numeration sees the offer of a vast range of services, by the operators in control of a network, that certainly cannot be labeled as “network internal”, and some of those, on the contrary, are clearly classifiable as value added services.

It is deemed that such situation requires serious consideration, by deliberating in the revision of the Plan all the dispositions necessary to fill previous law holes and efficiently countervail non correct uses of the numeration.

On the other hand, it is also deemed that the rule that allows the use of decade 4 as a short code for value added services already offered on an another public numeration should be surpassed by the profound revision of decade 4 use here being proposed. Besides, as pointed out by some contributions, this possibility creates a situation of obvious advantage for those network carriers that also perform as content providers, in comparison to other service providers.

Given the motivations mentioned above, it’s proposed to restrict the numerations of, strictly speaking, internal network services to the sole numerations 4XU….U with X= 0, 1, 2, while keeping the obligation of preventive communication of activation to the Ministry and the Authority (not excluding the opportunity of requesting a contribute for restoring the administrative dues) and peremptorily forbidding their use for value added services.

It is deemed that the meaning of internal network services might include, at best, those services that are “auxiliary” to the base service, thus completing its usage by the users, such as i.e. listening to the voicemail, urgent call alert, etc., bounding those applications to the 41 and 42 codes.

Additionally, a price differentiation by the second number is proposed, as below:

40U…U calls that are free for the user
41U…U the maximum price is determined by the price of the calls for non value added services terminated on the same network calculated on the user’s price profile
42U…U 0,30 euro maximum answer quota and 1,00 euro maximum quota per minute, or 1,50 euro forfait.

In the present offer of value added services, it’s noticeable that the decade sees an intense use for a category of value added services that are characterized by an activation via SMS sent to a decade 4 numeration and by the delivery of said service to the user via SMS/MMS, eventually on the basis of a periodic subscription plan.

Therefore, it is proposed to allow the use, for those value added services, of a subset of decade 4 numerations (4X with X=3,4,6,7,8 and 9), while estimating a category distinction based on the second number, by a) social info services, c) mass call services, d) entertainment services, e) product selling and broadcasting services)..:

These numerations would therefore become “public”, thus interoperable and assignable by the Ministry of Communications in the same way and by the procedures all other numerations are assigned, after payment of a contribution determined by analogy to contributions already charged for other numerations with similar availability.

Taken into account that typically such use requires a five number code, the assignment could be restricted to a single number.

In the same way as with other numerations used for value added services, it is proposed to set an expense limit. In particular, a 2 euro limit for each “una tantum” received service with one or more SMS and 20 euro monthly limit for subscription based services is proposed. A particular limit, 0,25 euro, would be set for the numerations (starting with code 44) dedicated to mass call services, in line with the price caps already set for other numerations reserved for the same service.

It’s important to note that the proposed modifications have significant impact on the present regulatory structure concerning the use of the decade, therefore it is deemed it would be convenient to adopt a transitory period of suitable duration, in order to allow actuation (by the Institutions) of all necessary initiatives for adjusting to the new directives and also to allow an effective information of the users.

It is reckoned such period might be valuated in at least six months from the approval of the new plan, during which period the use of numerations in decade 4 might be allowed on present conditions with respect of applicable laws.

It is to be noted, finally, that in this proposal the new Plan reserves the code 456 to the general tariff transparency service, while determining the obligations of the mobile and fixed network operators, with respect of the rules that regulate number portability.


In short:

In this deliberation the AGCOM states that the services being offered on 4XXXX numerations are mainly value added services and not internal network services, as ruled by present regulations.

The AGCOM proposal is to maintain those short codes, more easily remembered by the final users than the regular (9 numbers).

The AGCOM therefore proposes changes to the rules, to officially dedicate 43XXX, 44XXX, 46XXX, 47XXX, 48XXX, 49XXX numerations to value added services and making them PUBLIC, and as such interoperable and assignable by the Ministry of Communications in the same way all other numerations are assigned to anyone that makes request, and not by an arbitrary decision of the operator.

Interoperable means that, anyone wishing to offer a value added or premium service may activate a numeration with any of the operators, now all being in competition to one another. Such number would have to be usable on any network of any operator, and in the case of a SMS Premium number it would be capable of receiving/sending SMS and billing. The premium services interoperability is nothing new, since it’s already effective for 166/899 numerations.

The interoperability guarantees competition between operators, therefore it may be assumed that the revenues(1) credited by the operators to the Content Service Providers will become more similar to those of 166/899 services, never below 75%.

The AGCOM also states that the activation cost of the short codes for value added services will be the same as the cost of other numerations with similar availability.

This change to the numeration plan would finally stop the present arbitrary assignation of these numerations by the operators.

Finally, any company could sell value added services at the price it believes more adequate, within the price limits set by the regulator.

The PULL services price cap is very interesting, a limit that favors the growth of the market similar to those countries where the per capita usage of these services is much higher than in Italy. This means the price of tunes, wallpapers, games or any other content may never exceed the cap set by the regulator.

In the last part of its deliberation, the AGCOM foresees a transitory period of at least six months in order to allow companies and Institutions to adjust to the new rules, but clearly states that during such period the use of the decade 4 numerations may be permitted with respect of applicable laws.

Considering that:

1. the present regulations determine the use of 4XXXX numerations only for internal network services provided by the operator himself
2. the telephony operators, as stated by the AGCOM in its document, "use these numerations to offer a vast range of services that certainly cannot be all labeled as “network internal”, but on the contrary, are clearly classifiable in the category of value added services"

all such services should be temporarily suspended until the new rules pass. Alternatively, if the existing services are not suspended, we believe this would be a violation of the general principle of free market competition (and the constitutional laws against the discrimination of any subject before the law) since it would prevent other subjects to access these numerations during this transitory period, at the present conditions.

Point out your case

Many companies have already point out cases of non-assignment of SMS Premium numbers from Italian mobile network operators.

If your company has been discriminated please point out your case, specifying the eventual economical damages suffered.

Write to info AT (substitute AT con @).

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