Some interesting comments being reported by various media this morning, suggesting that the European Commission might be open to the idea of some mobile operators moving to a "receiver-pays" model - perhaps akin to the US.
This would get around some of the complexities emerging around interconnect & call termination fees, as we move towards FMC and various hybrid technologies like femtocells & dual-mode WiFi.
Put simply, in the past in Europe there has been a fairly reasonable justification for higher fees charged by mobile operators to terminate inbound calls - the extra costs of spectrum and radio network. This has been reflected in separate number ranges for mobile, and regulator-specified termination charges that can be 10x that charged by fixed operators.
But now, the gap in termination *costs* to the operators is narrowing. As fixed calls move to mobile, the underlying expense in running the network is shared between fewer minutes of use, while the opposite is true in mobile. Further, some supposedly "mobile-terminated" calls actually terminate (via a mobile number) on WiFi, femtocells, fixed-VoIP softphones, or voicemail boxes. There is no reason for the termination fees in these cases to be the same as that terminated on the expensive cellular macro network.
Unsurprisingly, the mobile operators are a bit unhappy about this, with various comments about how this might "distort the market" or "confuse consumers".
But by a strange twist of irony, I've been presented this morning by the most egregious "distortion" of the current caller-pays/mobile-termination fee model. I am participating in a 7-way conference call tomorrow, hosted by a mobile operator. There's only one participant from the operator involved, and some of the other participants will probably be outside the UK. Yet the dial-in number is a UK mobile number (obviously, one of the operator's own). Not a freephone number, not a fixed number that can be called at fractions of a penny per minute, not even a list of international mobile dial-in numbers. So 6 people will each be paying extortionate amounts against one mobile-terminated leg of the call. Cost-based? Yeah, right.
That sort of abuse of mobile numbering has got to be the best single argument for receiving-party-pays I've come across yet. Maybe the European Commission's got this one right. Or maybe I should get myself an 09xxx premium-rate number and insist that any future briefing calls from mobile operators have to use that.
Edit: apparently the mobile dial-in conference call service is being positioned as a value-add service, along the lines of the fixed-line "free to set up" conference services that use semi-premium number ranges like 0870 in the UK. That's sort of fair enough for occasional ad-hoc confcalls among friends or small businesses, but I would have thought that a large company (especially a telecom company!) would be able to have a cheaper & more efficient platform based either "in the cloud" or (shhh!) on a PBX. And even the 0870 conference guys have options for international dial-ins or even Skype access.
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