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Limiting operational costs for assignee of 116xxx phone numbers for services of social value


In 2007 the European Commission introduced the pan-european national short codes 116xxx called “Harmonised service of social value”. Assignees of this type of numbers should be organization active in the social sector, so usually these are non-profit organizations. This causes an issue with another requirement of the 116xxx phone numbers, the calls to the phone numbers must be free of charge. In a usual situation this implies that the called party pays for the calls. In some countries the fees per minute payable for this type of calls is much higher than for normal calls, in Luxembourg the fee payable on interconnect links (inter operator fees) are more than 2 times higher. At the end this puts an enormous financial load on organizations which usually don’t have much revenue.

Several solutions to this issue are possible, I present some here but feel free to provide your comments.

  1. No changes
  2. Operators bear the costs of the call inside their own network
  3. Multi-Homing with free On-Net calls
  4. Multi-Homing with free interconnect termination and transit

No changes

Calls to the 116xxx number are handled like calls to toll-free numbers (800, 0800, etc) and the called party has to burden the whole costs. The cost will be unpredictable and enormously high in some situations. This is probably the worst situation for the social service provider but at the same time it probably also is the most deployed solution.

Operators bear the costs of the call inside their own network

Instead of charging fees to each other for 116xxx calls, which are of course multiplied by the number of transit network the call has to pass in order to arrive at the terminating operator, the operator bear their own costs to transport the call. While this solution is very attractive for the social service provider, it also puts an unequal load and costs on the terminating operator, as all calls have to pass his network, so this is the most improbable solution.

Multi-Homing with free On-Net calls

This is an uncommon solution in the telco world, but it is very common on the Internet. Almost every Service Provider has his network multi-homed on the Internet for several good reasons (redundancy, load distribution, latency, distance, pricing, etc …). In the case of 116xxx this could reduce variable costs to a minimum. The social service provider subscribes to one or more phone lines with every operator. The operator provides free On-Net call delivery to the 116xxx number. Most NGNs provide free On-Net calls, it’s still uncommon for incumbent operators. Additionally you may have issues getting a subscription from each and every operator in your country.

Multi-Homing with free interconnect termination and transit

Essentially this is the same than the previous combined with the solution #2. The social service provider subscribes to one or more telephone lines at the largest operators available at his site. These operators provide free of charge On-Net calls to the 116xxx  to their subscribers and free transit service to interconnected operators without a direct link to the social service provider. This effectively reduces costs and load between several serving operators, while still providing coverage on all networks in your country.

Multi-Homing with no other changes

A somewhat realistic method to reduce

In  a real world situation you will never see all operators agreeing on one single  of the above solutions, some just want to make money everywhere and some will agree to the support the service provided via the 116xxx number. In some countries 116xxx numbers are already in service and more and more countries and numbers are following. In Luxembourg no 116xxx is in service yet, so no solution has been agreed by the operators in Luxembourg but this is probably only a matter of time.

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