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After posing the question about whether the UK is pro-customer or pro-criminal, telecom industry expert Teresa Cottam explores why now is the time for the UK to act

In the second part of iconectiv’s interview with Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at Omnisperience, we discuss her newly published white paper, ‘UK Digital Fraud: There’s a gap in the UK digital infrastructure and it’s letting fraud in,’ and explore why she thinks it’s critical for the United Kingdom (UK) to change its current number portability processes now.


Teresa, in your latest white paper, you discuss the House of Lords’ (HoL) 2022 “Fighting Fraud: Breaking the Chain” report. Beyond the HoL report, are there other drivers for making a change to the current number porting process in the UK?

Teresa Cottam:

As we discussed earlier, when the UK’s number portability process was implemented in the 1990s, we didn’t have smart phones and there were no IoT devices.

Today, we have far more players in the market, and to take it a step further, now that our telecoms prices in the UK officially went up on April 1 – and that was no April Fool – many people are struggling to pay their telecoms bills and experts are recommending they shift service provider to get a better deal. But the current porting system was not built for frequent or large-scale porting. It’s not scalable and it wasn’t future proofed. It relies on rivals to forward calls, for example, which leaves it prone to those rivals going out of business or making mistakes. This may have been okay when number portability was originally implemented, but such a process is no longer international best practice.

Bottom line: the world has changed substantially, but our number portability process hasn’t. So, a system that was originally put into place to foster consumer choice and competition, is now an old, archaic and inefficient process that has effectively become a gateway to fraud. What’s really concerning is that the UK’s number portability process is not fit for the 5G era – let alone the 6G era to come.


What do you believe is the best way to fix the UK’s current process?

Teresa Cottam:

The HoL report called for greater co-operation, which I firmly believe is necessary. I also believe there’s definitely an opportunity to build a best practice system – not process – in the UK that’s easy to use, secure by design, cost-effective and efficient. A system that will enable the type of inter-industry co-operation that’s necessary to shut down the opportunity to fraud.


This all sounds good. But is it even possible?

Teresa Cottam:

There are already several countries – from the United States to Greece, Chile and others across the globe – whose number portability practices the UK can learn from, replicate and build upon. Each of these countries has a streamlined number portability system with secure processes that consider the needs of both consumers and businesses, while supporting future revenue growth, competitiveness and digital confidence.

Implementing a modern number portability process in the UK that meets the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile ecosystem is definitely achievable. It's not really a question of the technology not being available, but rather of the government and the telecoms industry recognizing the real risks this archaic process represents to the UK economy and our customers; and deciding to do something about it. 

You can download Omnisperience’s new white paper, ‘UK Digital Fraud: There’s a gap in the UK digital infrastructure and it’s letting fraud in,’ here.

You can also read part one of iconectiv’s conversation with Teresa Cottam here.