Local Number Portability—An Update

By Bill Belshaw, NCE

The Local Routing Number (LRN) solution for Local Number Portability (LNP) is a proven success for wireline carriers. There are still many details being hammered out with the FCC, in Industry Forums, and the various regions preparing to implement this new technology. Issues regarding cost recovery, rate center definition, choke networks, E911 etc., seem to be leading the questions for everyone’s attention.

The Illinois FCC Field Trial has thoroughly tested the ability of the Local Routing Number (LRN) to provide Local Number Portability ( LNP) technology in a live network. All the participant companies were satisfied with the test results, but most identified operational areas that will require further refinement to be used in a truly functional LNP environment.

One of the primary technical problems identified at this point is the SS7 translations associated with the call routing, especially the Global Title Translations (GTT), a great deal of planning must be done to ensure that GTT is properly done.

Another major internal problem is interfacing with the existing legacy systems within each individual carrier’s company, these systems were not designed to operate with LNP.

Systems integration will be a key to a company’s success and ease of transition to the ported environment, most systems will have to interact with information that was non-existent prior to portability.

New Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and many other carriers are planing on entering the local marketplace as soon as possible. Portable service offerings with all associated switching and operational systems are gearing up for the implementation of the services as soon as possible. Most major carriers are putting all the elements in place to provide local dialtone services on a national level. Other Service Providers have identified areas throughout the country they plan on providing Local Services and are gearing up to support their new customers. Subscribers will soon be able to get their local and long distance service one package as they could many years ago.

Culture Shock for Long Distance Carriers

Entering the local marketplace is creating a culture shock to many established long distance service providers. The environment and approach to the new services is proving to be a massive undertaking. Entire processes and procedures within these organizations have to be redone to manage the new services being offered.

Planning and marketing departments are putting new strategies in place to meet the anticipated demands.

This is all compounded by the physical requirements of making the porting a reality to the customer. Changing the customers termination from one company to another is a task in it self. The various areas involved in porting are further complicated by dealing with issues such as unbundled loops. Each will probably have different requirements spelled out by the local utility commissions.

The implementation of LNP goes far beyond impact on Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) offering portable numbers, it will affect most facility-based carriers in the country at one level or another, even if a carrier has no intention of offering portable services.

The design of the LNP solution requires that the SS7 query be done at the N-1 network. This means that any carrier delivering traffic to an area that is open to portability will be responsible for the database dip.

The incumbent carriers in many areas have already filed tariffs to establish charges for companies that do not do the dip before entering the terminating network.

The question every other carrier must ask now is about the impact of LNP within their organization and what affect will it have on their network and business plans.

LNP uses an N-1 design for querying a Service Control Point (SCP) to retrieve the LRN, which directs the call to the appropriate end office. The query must be launched in the network prior to the network where the call will terminate (N-1). This creates the situation for all carriers delivering traffic to any area that is portable; they are obligated to have the dip done.

All IXCs and LECs that interact with the first 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) will be expected to accomplish this query function as the MSAs are opened to portability.

True Billing Costs Still Unknown

There are several options available to the N-1 carriers. The simplest is to do nothing. This will work, because when a ported call defaults, the call is routed to the central office that originally had the number. Being the default office, it must be LNP capable and be able to launch a query for the defaulted call.

The basic problem with this scenario is that the query will be billed to the N-1 carrier based on the tariffs that are now being filed by the incumbent local carriers.

The cost of this service by the service providers that originally had the dialed number will vary and is not accurately known at this time.

Another alternative is to modify the Signaling Service Points (SSPs) for the LNP query capability and utilize a Service Bureau. Most switch manufacturers have the capability in their latest loads to handle LNP queries.

Using a Service Bureau allows a Service Provider to take more control of their network and the costs associated with the LNP queries. As an added advantage a Service Bureau should be able to provide more information to the Service Provider doing the dip than just a peg count and a bill.

Most Service Bureaus will offer additional administrative services to their customers, making the transition to LNP more comfortable. The Service Bureau has the advantage of speed, allowing almost immediate access to the LNP database.

If traffic into a ported is sufficient a Service Provider may want to consider adding a platform to collect the NPAC information and transfer the LNP data to their own SCP.

There are several platforms available at this time. Cost justification and other database services being offered are probably the most important considerations when deciding on whether to buy as platform and then which platform to purchase.

Like in many other instances the options on how to survive LNP are open to each company.

Modification of each of the above options can be adjusted to meet the individual carrier’s requirements.

Service Bureau’s such as MCI System house offer both the Service Bureau and the platform, allowing the customer to pick and choose the components they desire in their network or want to have the Service Bureau provide.

System house is also capable of doing all the required system integration for a company’s back office systems.

This combination also allows a Service Provider the ability to transition from a Service Bureau to an entire platform owned and operated by the Service Provider.

Wireless Industry Ready for Changes

The wireless industry is currently addressing the issues that will soon come into play, even before wireless numbers become portable.

Wireless providers have been ordered by the FCC to be able to route calls to ported numbers by the end of June 1998. All wireless providers delivering calls into an area that is open to portability will require a query and the provider delivering the call will receive the bill.

The various wireless groups and forums through out the country are preparing to offer portability next year.

The FCC has also ordered the wireless community to offer number portability to their customers by the end of 1999. This portability will also involve the integration of the wireless and wireline.

Many of the same questions that are now being answered by the wireline community are reminiscent of those being asked by the wireless companies during the last few years.

The wireless Inter-Exchange Service Providers that have not started to act upon their options for Number Portability should probably begin as soon as possible. As the regions implement portability the costs and logistics of queries into the LNP databases will increase rapidly.

The Final Report for the Illinois FCC Field Trial was prepared by Dick Dowd and is available on Barry Bishop’s web page www.ported.com. Barry’s web page is probably the best source available at this time for current LNP activity.

Bill Belshaw is presently a Managing Consultant for MCI System house. He was the author of the CPC LNP trial in Manhattan, and was a major contributor and editor for the Test Plan used in the Illinois LNP Field Trial. His involvement has been since 1995. He is also the Secretary/Treasurer of NARTE.

( The first LNP article can be found in the NARTE News, Vol.15, No. 2, April-June 1997...Ed)