back to article Operators to get new SMS 999 obligation

Operators will soon have to support emergency text messaging, as Ofcom updates the universal service obligations to include number-porting within a day and a 24-month cap on contracts too. Ofcom has been testing 999 by text message for a while. The service was originally aimed at deaf people, and required handsets to be …


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  1. Arion

    Number Portability - a double edged sword

    Here in ireland, it used to be that each operator had their own prefix, and you could easily tell which operator a person used by the prefix their number had.

    The main reason this is useful is cheaper calls within operators ( voda to voda, or o2 to o2 is cheaper than voda to o2 or o2 to voda ). For this reason many people carry two handsets. Also previously someone could have a pbx, with gateways to the various operators, and decide which one to use based on the number. This doesn't work if the person has changed network.

    I personally perfered the previous situation where if you changed provider, then you kept most of your number, but the prefix changed.

    1. Shades


      ...I like my prefix, its easy to remember (along with the rest of my number) and is easy to say as it sort of "flows" (along with the rest of my number too). For that very reason I've had the same number for over 10 years, first with Vodafone and now o2. I'm glad I don't have to change the prefix.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Various corporate systems be they VOIP, PBX or whatever will totally confuse the system. Imagine you are calling from a corporate VOIP system. The call might originate from an office in one town, but break out onto the PSTN network from an office in another town altogether.

  3. John G Imrie

    I wonder if

    Ofcom exempts mobile VoIP on the grounds that it is really hard to track.

    could be used as a defense for alleged bittorrenting a music collection/

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "Irish Porting"


    But that's not a number port surely.

    "I've changed my mobile, my new number is the same as my old number, except it's different..."

  5. There's a bee in my bot net

    12 month contacts

    Aw, I got all excited there at the prospect of 12 month contracts coming back into fashion. But operators will just make them financially unattractive when compared to the ice age long 24 month contracts.

    Perhaps Ofcom should make operators break down the contact pricing so we can see how much of what we are paying goes to pay for the phone and the service...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      To each his own, I guess.

      Me, I'm on a two-year contract, but in my case it's more or less a wash. I'm paying $20 more per month than I would've without contract (though not directly through my current provider--it would've been through an MVNO), which when spaced out over two years comes to $480...right in the neighborhood of the current asking price for my Android phone. And I was able to walk out the door with my new phone (I paid $200 up front, but I'm also due the whole lot back), so all in all, I'm not complaining too much. I did my homework and eventually made an educated choice. And the length of the contract doesn't bother me that much since I wouldn't want to consider a replacement phone for at least two years in any event.

      I can appreciate the need to put at least some controls on these contract deals, but don't forget that they still provide affordable buy-ins for people who may not be able to otherwise get good phones up front. It's up to the more savvy out there to know the other options out there (for example, there exists a US GSM MVNO who will do the triple unlimited--voice, text, data) at a reasonable price.

      1. There's a bee in my bot net

        Ah but this is in the UK...

        Where a special arrangement between consumer and supplier exists where the supplier charges way more than they would in the US and we suck it up.

        I currently pay £10 a month for my data and voice needs (I don't use a lot of voice minutes) but if I want a new phone then I would have to pay at least £25 a month, more likely £30 or £35 for any of the top of the range android phones. I wouldn't stand a chance of using the minutes or txts they supply, but in contrast to the high number of free minutes/txt all the big uk mobile networks are cutting their data allowances down to the bone.

        As an example of cost, on Tmobile uk on an average cost contract (that the pimply phone sales kid would try to push) the Samsung Galaxy S would cost £77 for the phone plus £31 a month for 24 months.

        If I subtract the usual £10 a month I would pay for the service I use currently, the phone would cost £504 over 2 years, plus £77 to 'buy' the phone making a grand total of £581 for a phone that I can buy sim free for under £400.

        This is just one example and there are probably better deals out there but I haven't seen any that would persuade me to sign up for another long contract.

  6. Allan 1
    Thumb Up

    Emergency SMS

    Being deaf, all I'm going to say is "YAY"

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Emergency SMS

      It is also good if you want to call for help without letting your attacker know

  7. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Future proofing

    Is there no requirement for this to work with 112 as well?

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Emergency SMS

    Is really useful - SMS messages will generally get through even if there isn't enough signal for a call. There have been a lot of people rescued from mountains and boats who texted a friend and asked them to ring 999 - it's nice to be able to text 999 directly.

    Also be thankfull there is a vaguely joined up 999 service. We just had a hiker die on the local mountain, their family called the police when she didn't return home - but the mountain 2miles away is in another jurisdiction and the police in East Town didn't call the police in North Town - who run the mountain rescue.

  9. PaulR79

    24 month maximum, small but good step

    To see them have to stick to 24 months as an absolute maximum is good because I had seen a few creeping up to 36 months, Vodafone I think. Seeing 12 month contracts mentioned at all is ok but the point that they don't have to make them attractive and can price them to nudge people towards longer contracts makes it rather pointless.

    A good example would be the old HTC Desire which was priced at £370 up front at £30 a month for 18 months but at 24 months it dropped to around £100~ up front and £30 a month. This was at a time when the handset itself only cost around £350 SIM free. Until some sort of control is put on things like that it won't make much difference.

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Worse over here in the land of ice and snow. You pay for incoming calls on your mobile!

    My office uses a Voip system, a local call on the same area code from my office to my mobile gets charged as a long distance call from the city 3000mi away where the Voip system is registered.

  11. LJRich
    Thumb Up

    Credit due

    Credit where credit's due (even if they're late in getting their act together by EU standards).

    Well done OFCOM.

    There's a modicum of novelty in being able to write that!

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    And yet the quality of the voice communication via cellular telecoms networks remains execrable no matter what phone you use (a recent poll rated the iPhone the best, but it was still only rated as "good") or how close you are to a cell tower. I can hear Neil Armstrong clearer on those old NASA newsreels than I can hear my wife over my brand new Samsung phone - which also features an interface designed by baboons that makes trying to use the phone to use a pharmacy auto-refill service or navigate a voice-mail system all-but impossible.

  13. premitel

    999 Calling from PBXs

    One of the key issues in the proposed amendments is that the 999 caller location identification requirements now apply to all Communication Providers that allow dialling to national telephone numbers.

    At present this requirement applies only to public telephone network operators.

    There is also the requirement that Communication Providers must at least provide 999 caller location information that is granular and accurate to the postal address of the caller.

    This means that organisations that have IP-PBXs with centralised break out will have to ensure that the location of a 999 caller from a PBX extension is somehow passed automatically to the BT or C&W PSAP.

    This is not a trivial exercise with IP-PBXs that have extension mobility using devices such as softphones and wireless phones where the extension number does not provide a reliable indicator of the caller's location.

    It seems that we are moving towards the situation in the USA where solutions that offer enhanced 911 location identification capabilities are mandatory.

    This is going to be an important issue for my larger clients.

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