Enabling simple switching with good address management
How prepared are internet service providers for One Touch Switching?
In September 2021, Ofcom announced its plans to make it easier and quicker to switch broadband providers by introducing One Touch Switching (OTS). But, with the deadline for OTS fast approaching, are internet service providers (ISPs) prepared? Here Richard Crump, strategic product manager at Ordnance Survey (OS), the national mapping service for Great Britain, explores.
Before OTS, the process of changing broadband or home phone provider was a long and tiresome one, especially if the user was switching from one network to another. The user was responsible for finding the best deal and contacting their new provider to get connected, while also contacting their existing provider to end the contract and connection.
Under the new process, users wanting to change providers only need to contact their new provider, who will be responsible for managing the switching process on their behalf.
For consumers, the introduction of OTS is great news — they only have to communicate with one provider and, in practice, the switch could take place in just one day. For ISPs, it has the potential to be more problematic.
In June 2022, some of the largest players in the telecoms industry established The One Touch Switching Company — responsible for delivering a messaging hub that could provide near real-time exchange of customer data between gaining and losing communications providers. However, for the hub to work efficiently, it relies on excellent address management from internet service providers (ISPs).
Two ISPs need to be able to accurately communicate the correct address of each customer that chooses to switch. However, if the address provided by the losing communications provider isn’t accurate, it could have a serious impact on the company and the customer.
In an open letter to the industry, Ofcom has already warned that, “In the event that providers are not in compliance with their switching obligations by 3 April 2023, we will consider whether any enforcement action is appropriate to ensure that outcome.” While this enforcement action from Ofcom would likely include a fine for the provider, an even worse case could be if an address is incorrectly matched and the wrong customer ends up being disconnected from the network.
To avoid such outcomes, there are three steps that ISPs should take to ensure that they are managing their customers’ addresses well.
Firstly, they should consider how they are capturing new customers’ data and license an API that matches each new customer’s address with a unique property reference number (UPRN), such as OS Places API. Unlike apartment blocks, street names and postcodes, a UPRN is a unique identifier for every addressable location in the UK. The TOTSCo hub will use UPRNs to ensure that the correct address and customer is matched every time.
Second, ISPs should audit their existing customer records, ensuring that each address has a UPRN matched. OS can manage the process of address cleansing on an ISP’s behalf. All that is required is a list of customer addresses, which OS will return with matched UPRNs.
Third, ISPs should consider licensing an address dataset that contains UPRNs — such as OS AddressBase. Access to a dataset like this, which contains over 45 million addresses, enables good address management now and in the future. It also gives ISPs access to additional address data, such as characteristics for each property listed.
Furthermore, a dataset like this gives ISPs access to address data for the whole of Great Britain, rather than just their existing customers. This means that they could offer additional services to new or existing customers in a certain type of property in a targeted way.
As ISPs move towards the new standards expected by Ofcom, the UPRN is crucial to enable better data management, improved customer service and, of course, compliance with the upcoming standards.
We have now passed the April 3 deadline and Ofcom has recently released a statement explaining its disappointment in progress made by the industry — specifically, the messaging hub not being available yet. According to the Ofcom open letter to ISPs, its “expectation is that providers will, separately and collectively, take all possible steps to establish the OTS process as expeditiously as possible.” Where better to start than with an overhaul of your address management?
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Strategic Product Manager