The carrier-carrier market is not trading in the same sense that stockbroking houses trade with each other. Whereas brokers and banks may buy and sell the same stocks or bonds with each other in the same day, carriers have to be very careful not to do that. If carrier A buys Venezuela from carrier B who buys it from A, one call will come in to carrier A, go to B and go back to A again, over and over until all the circuits are taken up with one call. If it does terminate on an overflow route, the carriers may bill each other many times over for the same call. This is called looping and is very undesirable.
Carriers sign interconnect agreements with each other specifying the terms under which they will do business. As well as the usual terms of payment and dispute resolution, these will include the terms of price notifications. The industry standard is currently seven days for price increases while price decreases take effect on the day of notification. Because the margins in the carrier-carrier market are around 5% - 10%, re-routes or price increases must be made quickly to a destination where the current route is going to increase in price. Since the price increase itself has seven days' notice, it must be issued within twenty-four hours of the cost increase to avoid losses. This puts a significant pressure on the carrier's LCR team, who must process the offers from their suppliers quickly and accurately.
Mobile number portability also impacts the internet telephony, VOIP (Voice over IP) and least cost routing (LCR) businesses. Mobile number portability is a service that makes it possible for subscribers to keep their existing mobile phone number when changing the service provider (or mobile operator).
VOIP is clearly identified as a Least Cost Routing (LCR) voice routing system, which is based on checking the destination of each telephone call as it is made, and then sending the call via the network that will cost the customer the least. With GSM number portability now in place, LCR providers can no longer rely on using the network root prefix to determine how to route a call. Instead, they now need to know the actual current network of every number before routing the call. A voice call originated in the VOIP environment which is routed to a mobile phone number of a traditional mobile carrier also face challenges to reach its destination in case the mobile phone number is ported.
Therefore, VOIP and LCR solutions also need to handle MNP when routing a voice call. In countries without a central database like UK it might be necessary to query the GSM network about the home network a mobile phone number belongs to. As VOIP starts to take off in the enterprise markets because of least cost routing options, it needs to provide a certain level of reliability when handling calls.
MNP checks are important to assure that this quality of service is met; by handling MNP lookups before routing a call and assuring that the voice call will actually work, VOIP companies give businesses the necessary reliability they look for in an internet telephony provider. UK-based messaging operator Tyntec provides a Voice Network Query service, which helps not only traditional voice carriers but also VOIP providers to query the GSM network to find out the home network of a ported number.
In countries such as Singapore, the most recent Mobile number portability solution is expected to open the doors to new business opportunities for non-traditional telecommunication service providers like wireless broadband providers and voice over IP (VOIP) providers.
Last but not least, in November 2008 the North American FCC (Federal Communications Commission) released an order extending number portability obligations to interconnected VOIP providers and carriers that support VOIP providers.
Number plan management monitors changes in suppliers' dial codes and adds or removes codes from the company's own code tables to improve costs. Implementing the changes across the company's switches, billing systems, calling card and other IN platforms is a significant task for the engineering and billing departments.
Quality is usually measured by the Answer-Seize Ratio (ASR = call attempts answered / call attempts), Post-Dial Delay (PDD) and the Average Call Duration (ACD). If the average call duration is very low, it is taken to mean that the call quality is so poor that people cannot have a conversation and hang up. This matters to calling card operators because people do not re-purchase card services that give a low ACD. A low ASR is taken to mean that callers cannot get through to the other end and hence that the route is congested or low-quality. Post-dial delay is the time from dialing the last digit to the time a caller hears ringing. Callers often interpret a PDD of more than three or four seconds as meaning that there is no connection at all.
Additionally, the team may take into account the responsiveness of their supplier's technical team: if there is a fault or low quality, does the supplier fix it or just say that it is the best they can do?
LCR software varies from home-grown Excel spreadsheets, through Access and Microsoft Visual Studio applications to commercial products offering integration with the switch and billing systems costing up to £500,000 for an installation. The simpler the software, the more complex the surrounding manual processes.
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