Ofcom to start charging for number allocation

Ofcom, the super regulator is holding a consultation on the future of number in the UK. There's nothing too exciting about that, except that in certain areas numbers are running out and (there's 680 regional codes in the UK and 58 of those have less than 100 blocks available - numbers are allocated in blocks of 1,000).

Though many other countries have charged for number allocation, the UK has remained the exception. Now Ofcom intends to pilot charging in these number restricted areas and will charge 10p per number per year. That's above the European average of 7p pa (pricing varies from 0.06p to 27p).

Ofcom has seen a large rise in the allocation of number blocks with the likes of VoIP providers and other new entrants who can request numbers directly from Ofcom in-line with the Communications Act which allows anyone to become a Communications Provider.

Unfortunately Ofcom has to allocate 1,000 number blocks as the UK has not migrated to NGN's (next generation networks) as fast as Ofcom had hoped and old equipment can only take these large blocks (Ofcom used to allocate 10,000 number blocks, so there's some improvement).

If everyone had adopted ENUM then numbers could be allocated individually, but that's a long way off and unlikely to ever be adopted by everyone.

Though currently this is only a consultation, it's likely to be implemented and then there's no reason they wont expand this to all areas and even implement retrospective charges for existing number blocks, which could be expensive for providers holding large blocks of numbers.

The consultation is available from here, it ends on 18 February 2011 and it's possible to respond on-line.