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ISP A&A Confusingly Asks Mobile Users to Request a PAC Switch

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 (8:56 am) - Score 2,616
andrews and arnold isp logo aaisp 2015

Customers of UK broadband ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP), specifically those who take one of their 07 mobile numbers (normally linked to their SIP2SIM service), will shortly be asked to log-in to their account page and request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) to switch provider in order to avoid a tricky supplier.

At present AAISP’s 07 numbers are managed by an unnamed supplier that has been “slow … to answer any queries” and still doesn’t support some common features. Instead the ISP has decided to go with a new provider, which supports all of the features they need. However, according to the company’s MD, Adrian Kennard, their old 07 supplier has allegedly made it difficult to move their numbers on to the new platform.

So we want to move a lot of our numbers to a new provider. We can’t actually move them all, as some cannot be ported (!). These are numbers with no incoming SMS either, which is why we tried to port them. Yes, Ofcom require porting to be agreed, and the new provider are happy to try and sort a Porting contract for those numbers, but Ofcom do not have any time limit on how long that could take. It could take years, apparently, especially with a supplier this slow at answering any queries,” said Adrian.

The ISP initially tried to setup a Bulk PAC (mass migration) process to handle the switch of supplier for hundreds of their customers at once, but the existing company wanted around £20k to cover the admin costs of issuing it (a hefty price tag for a small provider). “Basically, unless we agree to this, they won’t issue the PAC and won’t let us move … which was never agreed in the contract and is clearly unreasonable,” said Adrian.

At this point AAISP proposed to simply have customers ask for the PAC and use that, but the supplier insisted that would still be treated as a wholesale move and so the fee would continue to apply. In order to get around this they decided to setup a new company for their mobile service and turn it into a retail move, which means that Ofcom’s consumer “Text-to-Switch” (Auto-Switching) process would apply.

Adrian Kennard said:

“Obviously I am ensuring we are 100% technically correct (the best kind of correct), and am making a new company (subsidiary of A&A), and asking customers to move to that retail provider.

Once this is sorted we’ll seamlessly move customers back to A&A, no problem, but to ensure we are correct and within the OFCOM rules for issuing individual PACs for free for a “retail move”, it will be a separate company (who contract for A&A to do billing). I’ll even create the inter company billing (net zero) and file accounts for this short lived new company. All above board and proper. Total cost under £50.”

The new company that has been setup is called ((💩)) LTD and if you know your unicode decimal codes then 💩 comically converts to 💩(poo), but they may opt for a more “polite name” in the future. As a result of this Adrian believes that their existing supplier now has a choice between either handling hundreds of separate retail PAC requests, each of which must be issued within a couple of hours for free, or doing a fairly priced bulk PAC.

Suffice to say, it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. The biggest difficulty for AAISP is likely to be in terms of the inevitable customer confusion that will arise from making such a request, which somewhat transfers a problem with the internal business to one that customers must now help to shoulder; such things are usually best avoided.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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19 Responses
  1. joe says:

    I just love this story. Its a microcosm of the telco biz all in one.

  2. Chris Sayers says:

    In all fairness to AA, this need not have happened, the supplier only needed to answer questions in a timely manner, mind I must congratulate the supplier, they must be hugely successful as to not want AA business.

  3. s says:

    This wouldn’t be the same A&A that say “We have very limited porting agreements in place so it is unlikely you will be able to port any number to another provider” when you order a number from them by any chance?

    1. Q says:

      Sounds like something A&A might say. I.e. up front, clear, honest and setting reasonable expectations based on reality, even if that reality is un ideal.

      What I’d be very surprised if A&A said would be like “porting is easy” and then later “that will be twenty grand please”.

  4. Billy Nomates says:

    This weeks episode of BOFH was good. Keep em coming. Good work A&A, what a horrid supplier.

  5. Tom says:

    I’m a bit annoyed to be honest. Good on AA for all of it – but I have 3 07 numbers with them. Why is the first I’m hearing about it on here?

    1. Another A&A user says:

      The system is not in place to give effect to it yet, and no customers have been asked to port yet, so you have not missed any official announcement, since there has not been one. There’s hope — I imagine — that the provider will change its stance, and carry out the porting more sensible.

    2. John says:

      It hasn’t happened yet. It might not.

      “We’ll notify customers with instructions when we do this.

      I hope they do opt for the easy way and we don’t have to contact customers. We’ll do a status post if we do this behind the scenes but it should be seamless.”

      https://www.revk.uk/2020/11/why-are-asking-you-to-ask-for-pac.html?m=1

      Mark isn’t always the best at linking to or naming sources.
      This article gives the impression that Adrian gave that statement to ISPReview directly or to the press in general.

      He wrote it on his private blog.
      That should be mentioned.

    3. Web Guy says:

      Probably because A+A wanted to get it done smoothly without bothering / worrying any customers that there may be any glitch in their mobile service.

      I hope A+A will later dish the dirt on which telco they moved from, so we all know who to avoid in future (even though we consumers aren’t ever going to be in a similar situation, it just “feels good” to me to have A+A tell us who caused them a significant nuisance and effectively warn any other firm to avoid for similar reasons).

      It’s quite typical of Adrian K to find a solution and let’s see how this 50 quid method solves it… the aggro involved in a few (tens of?) thousand individuals switching service is going to be worse and what’s more, it bypasses the money grabbing firm’s accounts department.

    4. Mark Jackson says:

      @John. Trolling. It is clearly already linked on his name in the second paragraph, which is even in bold. If you don’t like ISPreview then, rather than trolling comments, don’t bother to visit.

    5. John says:

      Trolling?
      Come on now Mark. Read the definition of that word.

      I was offering a helpful explanation to the original commenter on why A&A hadn’t yet contacted customers.

      Ok you did have an obscure link on Adrian’s name to his blog. I generally don’t click every hyper link in an article.
      There’s no mention this is from his blog in the article.

      I’ve visited this site for over 15 years.

      I’ve praised your work 20-30+ times in the comments section over the years.
      I’ve critiqued you 2 or 3 times in the comments section in all that time.

      No need to get defensive over a little criticism.

    6. Anonymouse says:

      Because they posted it on RevK’s blog which is not honest guv a company blog.

      Although actually what this really shows is A&A did a crap job of ensuring it entered into a contract it could get out of – or perhaps it knew those costs existed but failed to agree a better deal and now wants customers to help it get out of the cost.

      £20K is not that big a deal, based on the accounts they publish they could write it off as a cost of doing buisness.

    7. Mike says:

      @John

      Don’t take it personally he’s been grumpy since 2016 for some reason

  6. guy says:

    Anyone that has a number with them, put it into this site

    https://portal.aql.com/telecoms/network_lookup.php

    Obviously you can change the last couple digits or something if you like. However this will show who the current supplier is.

    1. Matt says:

      Not quite.

      It’ll show the original range holder, even if the number has been ported since.

      My number with EE was originally issued to Vodafone as the range holder and still shows Vodafone with no mention of EE.

      However the tool at https://www.loqate.com/en-gb/phone-verification/ (middle of page), does show the correct and exact network the number is now with.

  7. Anony Mouse says:

    Clever move by Adrian, but the underlying issue here is with his contract with the current mobile network provider. The end game he’s trying to achieve isn’t number portability, because that’s a change of retail provider and (notwithstanding the wheeze he’s playing to side-step this), the retail provider isn’t changing.

    Resellers changing underlying network provider is typically accomplished via a bulk transfer using number portability techniques because it’s the expedient process to use, but it’s not number portability in a regulatory sense (read the definitions in the Ofcom General Conditions) hence the regulated cost-basis doesn’t apply. Ergo, the pricing that will apply should be laid down in the contract when a reseller takes service with the network provider in the first place.

    So neat way around it by porting a number twice, but an even better way would have been to negotiate the contract correctly in the first place.

    One thing – not sure if A&A had already ported the numbers to the current recalcitrant provider, but if not and the numbers are from a range issued by that provider, the service issues may not disappear once migrated because calls (and some SMS signalling) will still flow via the rangeholder/old provider.

    1. Anonymouse says:

      Weird… I am also “anonymouse” but I just posted the same thing in effect 🙂

    2. Anony Mouse says:

      Great minds… 🙂

      (Sorry, didn’t mean to nick your name!!)

  8. Andrew Clayton says:

    Looks like they’ve come to an agreement…
    https://www.revk.uk/2020/11/why-are-asking-you-to-ask-for-pac.html

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