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ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Wednesday September 24 1997 at 07:18:44 PM EDT

IT'S TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE

FCC . resource management. is running 800 Service into the ground.

New York, NY US - New York 09/25/97 (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) Recent industry reports to the FCC indicate that 888 numbers may run out before 877 is scheduled for release in April . 98. Indeed, the industry is quietly seeking ways to speed up the introduction of 877.

Minutes from a February . 97 SNAC (SMS/800 Number Administration Committee) meeting, note that based on the average usage during the prior three months of November, December and January, 888 exhaust would occur sometime in July, 1998.

Given the 30-year run of 800, even that 3-year 888 shelf-life is absurd, further strengthening arguments for toll-free SAC partitioning as necessary for resource management, as well as marketplace application, survival.

What is accelerating the depletion even beyond industry expectations? Didn. t the FCC. s April Toll-Free Report and Order set in place mechanisms that were supposed to stem this tide? Wasn. t that, after all, its sole purpose?

Marketshare Versus Depletion by RespOrg

RespOrg Share of Working 800 Numbers as of October 1, 1996

MCI 26.06% AT&T 22.34% WILTEL/LDDS WORLDCOM 13.53% SPRINT 7.97% FRONTIER/ALLNET/RCI 6.07% STENTOR 2.51% LCI 2.25% NYNEX/BELL ATLANTIC 2.05% PAC BELL/SW BELL 1.45% CABLE & WIRELESS 1.20% ALL OTHERS 14.57% INDUSTRY 100.00%

In October, 1996, the two largest RespOrgs, AT&T and MCI, had 1.6 and 1.9 million toll-free numbers, respectively. That. s combined 800 and 888, business and residential service.

Today, AT&T insiders report a slight decrease in toll-free revenue, combined with a growth in toll-free minutes, and a marketshare increase who. s growth is fairly consistent with the industry as a whole. Bringing their total toll-free number base, as of September 1, 1997, to 2,112,312 -- an increase of a half-a-million toll-free numbers, encompassing both 800 and 888, over the course of past the year.

Some other carriers as well, have actually maintained or lowered their share of numbers in recent weeks, whether by attrition or otherwise, but certainly not lining their coffers at this critical time. Those carriers include Allnet, Stentor, Cable & Wireless, and US West.

But what of the rest?

MCI, according to industry insiders, lost marketshare in minutes, yet increased its toll-free number base during the past year by 1.6 million, to 3,521,538 -- nearly doubling its entire pool. Indeed, during the week of August 23 to September 1 alone, MCI increased its holdings by 25,000 numbers.

During that same week, AT&T acquired 10,500, Sprint 22,980, and Wiltel 24,000 toll free numbers. In total, there are now only 2.6 million toll-free numbers left to last through April . 98, with 115,000 pulled out in the last week alone.

Clearly there are some RespOrgs performing reasonably responsibly, such as Cable & Wireless, and others mentioned above. Similarly, with its huge customer base overall, we do not begrudge AT&T a half-a-million-number increase over a 12 month period. Indeed, AT&T recently told ICB that it intends to shift its focus away from marketshare, to profitability, caring less how many numbers it has in its vast stable, than how much revenue each account is driving. A reasonable business proposition, to be sure, and one that coincidentally does not conflict with resource management as a whole.

Additionally, AT&T has publicly supported user-rights measures that would further alleviate depletion and promote a stable number resource foundation -- a stand-up move in a cut-throat business that is forthright, bold, and forward-thinking.

Given snowballing depletion, vast statistical discrepancies in a very competitive marketplace, and AT&T. s leadership support of some unorthodox, yet very practical solutions, we have to wonder how long it will take the FCC to reconsider its April Report and Order.

Because its "resource management" mechanisms are clearly running 800 Service into the ground.

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News


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