On 14 Oct 2004, the Irish regulatory authority ComReg published its position on numbering for VoIP-based services and related issues. ComReg decided to allow the use of geographic numbers under certain conditions, and opened a dedicated VoIP number range 076. 

Since that date, no VoIP-based services have been activated in the 076 number range due to an absence of underlying interconnection arrangements. In Jan 2005, ComReg formally asked the fixed incumbent operator eircom to submit interconnection conditions, taking into account three retail price points: national, local and sub-local (with sub-local being equivalent to tariffs for Internet dial-up). On 28 Jan 2004, eircom provided a proposal, but only for the sub-local retail tariff. On 2 Feb 2005, a consultative meeting was held with industry participants.

ComReg has now decided to step-up its intervention, in order to make 076 VoIP an operational reality in Ireland, on the grounds that “[…] from experience since October 2004, it is unlikely that timely progress will be made without Direction by ComReg; […] Draft Directions are aimed at minimising additional delays in the interests of competition in what is already a protracted timescale for opening VoIP services based on 076 numbers”.

ComReg’s proposals, put forward for consultation until 3 March 2005 (this is a shortened consultation period) are essentially as follows:

1. Define and open sub-range 076-3 to support sub-local retail tariffs (1.61c/min/daytime, 0.80c/min/evening, 0.80c/min/weekend) and sub-range 076-6 to support local retail tariffs (4.07c/min/daytime, 1.04c/min/evening, 1.04c/min/weekend) for calling VoIP-based services from standard PSTN/ISDN connections.

2. Force the fixed incumbent operator eircom to present wholesale interconnection (retention and settlement) charges to support the defined retail tariff points (the ComReg document contains considerable detail in this respect), and force eircom to publish textual amendments to its reference interconnection offer, amended contractual clauses, etc.

3. Force eircom to offer wholesale transit to VoIP services.

4. Force all operators to open access to all operational 076 numbers, and force them to make amendments to billing and other affected systems in order to make this effectively possible. 

The ComReg document is remarkable in that it includes, as annexes, what amounts to nearly the full text of sample ‘Service Schedules’ describing the interconnection conditions to eircom’s own VoIP-based services relying on 076 numbers and for the conveyance of calls to the 076 numbers of alternative operators/service providers.

T-REGS Note: Footnote 5 of the ComReg document is of particular interest: it stipulates that: “Operators are free to include or exclude these numbers from their discount schemes”, i.e. their retail tariff packages.

The full text of the ComReg consultation document can be accessed by clicking here.

For a discussion of this development, please contact Yves Blondeel.