Is Local Number Portability a Success?

Posted by Ken Babcock on May 25, 2017 11:20:27 AM
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When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) first mandated Local Number Portability (LNP) on June 27, 1996 in the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas by October 1, 1997 and elsewhere by December 31, 1998 as a spur to open up competition for customers among local service providers, I doubt that it had any idea how pervasive their requirement would become.

At the time of the initial FCC ruling on LNP, the concept of allowing a user to transfer his/her fixed-line telephone service from one service provider to another without changing the service’s ten digit telephone number was viewed as the end-of-the-world by Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC) and Independent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) personnel.

The situation got even more complex in 2003 when the FCC expanded its LNP directives to cover wireless service and eventually in 2007 extended the capability to Voice over IP (VoIP) services.

While there were dire predictions of impending doom surrounding the process initially, today LNP remains complex but an accepted fact of life.

Before proceeding I feel that it might be helpful to see what LNP is really all about from a technical perspective using a brief technical overview I found in Wikipedia that is relatively easy to follow:

“Service Providers employ Signaling System 7 (SS7) to route calls throughout the US/Canada network. SS7 accesses databases for various services such as Centralized Name and Address (CNAM), Line Information Data Base (LIDB), Custom Local Area Signaling Services (CLASS) as well as LNP.
During actual call set-up, calls to ported numbers are completed when a customer who calls a ported number sends the dialed number to a provider's SSP (Service Switch Point), where it is identified either as a local call or not. If the call is local, the switch has the NPA-NXX in its routing table as portable, so it sends a routing request to the Signal Transfer Point (STP) which accesses a local database that is updated by an LSMS (Local Service Management System) which holds all routing for all ported numbers to which the carrier is responsible for completing calls. If routing information is found, a response is sent to the "query" containing the information necessary to properly route the call. If it is not a local number, the call is passed on to the STP and routed until it gets to a local carrier who will perform the "query" mentioned earlier and route the call accordingly.”

In addition, Wikipedia provides some historical insight and perspective into the origin of LNP:

“LNP was invented by Edward Sonnenberg while working for Siemens. Though it was introduced as a tool to promote competition in the heavily monopolized wireline telecommunications industry,[6] number portability became popular with the advent of mobile telephones, since in most countries different mobile operators are provided with different area codes and, without portability, changing one's operator would require changing one's number.
LNP was first implemented in the U.S. upon the establishment of the original Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC) in Chicago, Illinois in 1998. This service covered select rate centers in the Ameritech region.”

Today in the United States there are over 675,000,000 ported customer telephone numbers being managed by Neustar under the direction of the very large and all-inclusive North American Numbering Council (NANC) acting in an advisory capacity to the FCC.

Neustar’s LNP role is now deeply in the midst of being transitioned to a new vendor, iconnectiv, that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ericsson and formerly part of Telcordia Technologies Inc.

The Top 10 LNP service provider owners in terms of ported line numbers are either Wireless or Competitive Local Exchange (CLEC) Carriers. This is perhaps not too surprising given the nature of today’s ever-evolving world.

Therefore, it is incumbent on any service provider wishing to be profitable over time to study and to harness the records of customer movement among service providers as exposed through regular Local Number Portability (LNP) bulk data download files that are regularly made available by NANC.

Snapshots in the format of VersionTN, LRN, CurrentOCN, ActivationTimestamp of LNP Location Routing Number (LRN) assignments by Service Provider ID (SPID), if stored and made available for subsequent access via SQL requests, can lead the user to more fully comprehend their customer base and what needs to be done to reduce churn and attract new customers.

Questions such as the following are natural places to start:

  • Which of your customers is porting their service to other Service Providers?
  • What do LNP customer losses have in common in terms of call and texting patterns that are similar to other users in your service area?
  • Is there growing potential for more customer losses through LNP?
  • Who is porting other Service Provider numbers into your serving infrastructure? What do these LNP customers have in common with other users in your service area?

The ability of Service Providers to digest the results generated by this line of thought and questioning can open this area up as wide as the demands for greater certainty about your ability to retain customers in the face of rising competition and the introduction of ever-more powerful network technology.

To this end, it is clear from my perspective that Local Number Portability has definitely succeeded in its mission to promote competition.

Topics: Telecom Data Analytics, Regulatory, LNP