Gateway/SIM Boxes – Plan Communications Limited, Policy
Note :- Reference to The Network or Network within this document refers to the Mobile Network Operator(s) with whom Plan Communications Limited (Plan or plan.com) has an agreement for the provision of network services. References to SIMs means any type of subscriber identity module whether in card or virtual form and for any type of use whatsoever including mobile, voice, data or internet of things.
A Gateway Device/SIM Box means a device(s) containing one or more SIMs for one or more mobile networks and which enables the automatic routing of calls to mobile networks, landlines or to generate SMS Text(s)
The purpose of the Gateway/SIMBox is, therefore, to avoid the relatively higher charges of fixed-line-to-mobile calls and exploit the lower tariff of mobile-to-mobile calls or texts within the same network. It should be noted, however, that following Ofcom’s decision of 1 June 2004 mobile termination rates are to be cut by 30%, from the beginning of September 2004. The corresponding reduction in fixed to mobile retail rates may well have an impact on Gateway/SIMBox operators’ business plans.
The Gateway/SIMBox also results in mobile consumers being unable to use services that they would expect to be able to use, including: returning a missed call; sending an SMS; screening unwanted or malicious calls (call rejection); and using Calling Line identity (CLI) to manage costs when roaming / receiving calls from overseas (deciding whether to accept the call).
Mobile network operators must comply with many often complex statutory and regulatory duties.
The spectrum that mobile network operators use is regulated by the Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1949 and 1998. The provision of electronic communications networks and services is governed by the Communications Act 2003. In addition, operators need to comply with requirements set out in other legislation, for instance the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Wireless Telegraphy Act
Under the UK regulatory regime, radio transmitting and receiving devices need to be licensed. In practice, many devices are made exempt from this requirement through Regulations.
Regulation 4(2) of the Exemption Regulations provides that the exemption from licensing does not apply to apparatus that provides a commercial telecommunications service to another person via a wireless telegraphy link (emphasis added).
The Government has confirmed that Gateway/SIM Boxes are exempt from licensing if they are used to provide a private connection to a public network, as they would not be providing a telecommunications service to third parties. Conversely, the use of Gateway/SIMBox equipment to provide a public connection to a public network would need to be licensed as the link provides a third-party telecommunications service.
However, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 can use their own (or third party) equipment in accordance with their licences in order to provide a telecommunication service. The Radio Communications Agency (since replaced by Ofcom) has suggested that in some circumstances, MNOs may be able to consider purchasing products or services from Gateway/SIMBox Operators for use under the auspices of their MNO licences. Although the Government has acknowledged that this is a commercial matter for the companies concerned, they have encouraged the MNOs and Gateway/SIMBox Operators to consider ways to address pragmatically existing uses of equipment that continue not to meet the requirement for exemption, accepting that MNOs must comply with their Regulatory requirements
General Conditions of Entitlement
General Condition 16 of the new General Conditions of Entitlement (that replaced licences on 25 July 2003) requires networks to provide Calling Line Identity (CLI) in accordance with data protection legislation. Ofcom has issued guidelines on how this can be done2.
The guidelines require CLI information to be authentic. Numbers displayed must be either Network Numbers or Presentation Numbers. Network Numbers are the digits that identify either the network termination point, or the line identity allocated to end user. Presentation Numbers are diallable, non-premium numbers allocated to the caller (switchboard number of a corporate, for instance).
The concern with "public” Gateway/SIM Boxes is that the CLI displayed on called parties' handsets is neither a Network Number, nor a Presentation Number. It is the number of the SIM in the gateway. This would seem to be a breach of the guidelines and, therefore, of the relevant data protection legislation. Continued use of such gateways may constitute persistent misuse of an electronic communications Network. It would also seem to be the case that a MNO terminating calls that had passed through a public gateway The Network would deliver calls with incorrect CLIs. And since Ofcom maintain that “public” Gateway/SIM Boxes may operate but only within the auspices of an MNO’s managed network”, this might put The Network in breach of the General Condition 16.
Furthermore, MNOs have duties under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to provide enforcement authorities with call records, when requested. There have apparently been cases where incorrect information has been provided to police, affecting, adversely, their investigations. Hence it seems to be the case that public Gateway/SIM Boxes frustrate the provision of correct information to law enforcement agencies, in breach of the RIPA.
MNO’s contract with customers (and service providers) on the basis that they will use reasonable endeavours to operate and maintain the availability of their networks and their network services to customers. Customers (and service providers) in turn agree not to do or to use their reasonable endeavours to prevent the doing of anything likely to impair, interfere or damage the network or other customers’ use of the network the use of Gateway/SIM Boxes leads to network capacity problems. Gateway/SIMBox equipment is located at fixed locations and contains often large quantities of SIM cards generating large volumes of traffic. As a consequence, an MNO’s network experiences high demand on individual cell sites and often severe network congestion. The availability of network connection and quality of network connection to other customers served by the same cell site are adversely affected.
Plan’s Policy Objectives
Plan’s policy objectives on Gateway/SIM Boxes reflect two key principles:
- the operation of Gateway/SIM Boxes must not put The Network in a position where it is in breach of its statutory or regulatory duties; and
- the operation of Gateway/SIM Boxes must not affect adversely the operation of the Network to such an extent as to reduce the quality of the service provided to other customers below an acceptable level.
Application of The Principles
Public Gateway/SIM Boxes
The application of the above principles prohibits the operation of public Gateway/SIM Boxes since their operation is inconsistent with obligations in respect of CLI and lawful intercept.
Private Gateway/SIM Boxes
Customers using private Gateway/SIM Boxes must ensure that appropriate Presentation Numbers are displayed on called parties’ devices.
Distinction Between Public and Private Gateway/SIM Boxes
The imposition of a prohibition of public Gateway/SIM Boxes, while accepting the operation of private Gateway/SIM Boxes might lead to a situation where Gateway/SIMBox operators of public Gateway/SIM Boxes misrepresent the nature of their operations to escape the prohibition. It is possible that monitoring use will enable The Network to make a distinction between the operation of private and public Gateway/SIM Boxes.
Use of Gateway/SIM Boxes must not result in unacceptable congestion, affecting, adversely, other users’ service.
Plan’s policy on Gateway/SIM Boxes
This Gateway/SIMBox policy forms part of the contractual relationship between you and Plan. In the event that any provision of this Gateway/SIMBox policy conflicts with any provision in any agreement between you and Plan Communications Limited, the provision in this Gateway/SIMBox policy shall have precedence, but only in so far as it relates to matters governed by this Gateway/SIMBox policy.
Prohibition On The Use of Public Gateway/SIM Boxes
Public Gateway/SIM Boxes are not permitted to operate using the The Network. Plan does not agree to provide service to operators of public Gateway/SIMBox operators. Where they are found to operate, Plan will take steps to withdraw service, on the basis that their continued operation effectively puts Plan and The Network in breach of its Conditions of Entitlement.
Private Gateway/SIM Boxes Should Be Permitted
The operation of private Gateway/SIM Boxes does not appear to be inconsistent with legal or regulatory requirements. On that basis, there is no general prohibition. However, Gateway/SIMBox operators should ensure to Plan’s reasonable satisfaction that they adhere to Ofcom’s guidance on the provision of correct CLI information.
In addition, mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary congestion, The Network and Plan will seek to identify and migrate customers (and service providers) to alternative products, such as Mobex that manage network traffic in a manner that does not lead to congestion problems and is consistent with The Network’s other principles regarding use of Gateway/SIM Boxes
The operation of Gateway/SIM Boxes must not result in additional congestion to such an extent that the service to other end users is impaired or otherwise adversely affected. If the operation of Gateway/SIM Boxes does impair or affect, adversely, other customers’ use of the network, then The Network and Plan will act to suspend or terminate service.
- Any Gateway/SIMBox that is connected to The Network will have to be registered and approved for use on The Network.
- Only one Private Gateway/SIMBox device will be allowed per single cell site
- No more than 30 SIMS should be connected to any one cell site. Each SIM and its related IMEI used in the Gateway/SIMBox device should be declared at registration. The Gateway/SIMBox and SIMS cannot be re-located without re-registration of the Gateway/SIMBox.
- The Gateway/SIMBox operator of the private Gateway/SIMBox device is required to have the ability to both monitor and control. This ability must be demonstrated to The Network’s satisfaction. The amount of traffic generated to ensure adherence to The Network and Plan’s Policy on Gateway/SIM Boxes.
- Each Gateway/SIMBox will not generate more than 3 Erlang’s (180 Minutes) of traffic per hour or 500 SMS texts per hour Traffic management by the Gateway/SIMBox operator of the Gateway/SIMBox will also ensure that no more than 7 SIMS (Concurrent usage) are in use at any point in time. Responsibility for ensuring adherence is that of the Gateway/SIMBox operator.
- The Gateway/SIMBox device must abide by the GSM specification and must monitor Broadcast Control Channel (BCCH) frequencies as broadcast by the network and follow the GSM standard camping procedures. The devices must also obey handover commands as issued by the The Network.
- Only once the registration has been approved by The Network will the Gateway/SIMBox be permitted to operate.
Monitoring and Governance
The Network will monitor the use of its networks to establish:-
- Where Gateway/SIM Boxes operate
- Whether Gateway/SIM Boxes are private or public
- Whether the operation of Gateway/SIM Boxes result in unacceptable congestion
- Whether there is technical compliance with this document
Only registered Gateway/SIMBox devices will be allowed on the network. Any unregistered device found on the network will be disconnected without serving any prior notice.
The operation and technical compliance is the sole responsibility of the Gateway/SIMBox operator.
The use of the registered device shall at no time effect the operation and performance of The Network cell site offering the service. If such a device is found on the network in breach of the policy, The Network reserves the right to disconnect without serving any prior notice.
Only one Gateway/SIMBox device per Network cell site will be allowed, this will be managed through the registration process on a first come first served basis. Where there are currently multiple Gateway/SIMBox operators on a single site the first Gateway/SIMBox operator to register and accept the stated policy will be allowed to remain on the site. The other Gateway/SIMBox operators will have their service terminated without serving any prior notice.
Any device found locked onto a single BCCH frequency or rejecting multiple handover commands will be summarily terminated without serving any prior notice.
If a registered Gateway/SIMBox location becomes congested due to traffic growth, The Network will provide the registered Gateway operator with 30 days notice to re-locate and re-register the Gateway/SIMBox.
Any registered Gateway/SIMBox will have 14 days from approval to initiate its operations or the registration will be rescinded.
Collation of Information
The Network will keep a register of Gateway/SIM Boxes that operate on its network and those that have operated on its network within the previous twelve months that it has been able to identify. This will be used to establish the volume of traffic passing through Gateway/SIM Boxes and the trend in their usage.
Working with Gateway/SIMBox Operators
Where Plan is approached by a Gateway/SIMBox operator requesting that its equipment be permitted to be used under the auspices of The Network’s licence then The Network will forward, via Plan, such Gateway/SIMBox operator the questionnaire at Annex 1 and The Network Gateway/SIMBox registration form.
The Network Questions and Issues Concerning Your Use of Gateway/SIM Boxes
We have a number of questions/concerns regarding your use of Gateway/SIM Boxes.
- You should identify your use of “public” Gateway/SIM Boxes.
- Where you have identified use of public Gateway/SIM Boxes please let us have details of what action has been taken/will be taken to terminate such services and the timetable for completion of such action.
- We are anxious to understand on what terms you propose use of private Gateway/SIM Boxes. In particular we are anxious to understand and review 3.1 Whether Gateway/SIMBox equipment will be owned by you or by 3rd parties or by customers; 3.2 description and customer terms for such services, including matters such as ownership of equipment (SIMs and Gateway/SIM Boxes), point of interconnection between customer equipment and public fixed and mobile networks; and 3.3 Where these arrangements do not already exist what actions are required, and what is the timetable, for implementation.
General Condition 16 of the new General Conditions of Entitlement (that replaced The Network’s licence on 25 July 2003) requires The Network to provide CLI in accordance with data protection legislation. Ofcom has issued guidelines on how this can be done. The guidelines require CLI information to be authentic. Numbers displayed must be either Network Numbers or Presentation Numbers. Network Numbers are the digits that identify either the network termination point, or the line identity allocated to end user customers. Presentation Numbers are diallable, non-premium numbers allocated to the caller. The Network would be concerned if the CLI displayed on called parties' handsets is neither a Network Number, nor a Presentation Number, but, for example, the number of the SIM in the Gateway/SIMBox, instead. This would seem to be a breach of the guidelines and, therefore, of the relevant data protection legislation. Moreover The Network as an MNO is concerned that where it terminates calls or texts that have passed through a Gateway/SIMBox, The Network would be in effect delivering calls with incorrect CLIs and hence itself in breach of General Condition 16.
Further, MNOs have duties under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (“RIPA”) to provide enforcement authorities with call records, when requested on a 365/24/7 basis. There have apparently been cases where incorrect information with regard to CLI has been provided to police and security services, affecting, adversely, their investigations.
Please therefore confirm what arrangements you will put in place so as to ensure that CLI provided will be authentic and either Network Numbers or Presentation Numbers and not the SIM in the Gateway/SIMBox.
5. The use of Gateway/SIM Boxes causes network capacity problems. Gateway/SIMBox equipment is located at fixed locations and contains often large quantities of SIM cards making large volumes of traffic. The Network therefore experiences high demand on individual cell sites and often severe network congestion. The availability of network connection and quality of network connection to other customers served by the same cell site are adversely affected.5.1 Where are Gateway/SIM Boxes operated by you located? 5.2 What is the Gateway/SIMBox sizing at these single locations in terms of number of SIM cards and volume traffic? 5.3 What steps might you take to assist The Network in monitoring volumes of traffic through single locations and in agreeing volume limits? What other steps might you take to assist The Network in managing network congestion issues? 5.4 Will you agree to pay for additional network capacity at single locations where your Gateway/SIM Boxes are operated? 5.5 What steps will you take to monitor and control traffic generated by your Gateway/SIM Boxes? How will you demonstrate these abilities to The Network.
- If your Gateway/SIMBox arrangement does not permit proper delivery of CLI The Network is concerned that this may result in customers being unable to benefit from services that they would expect to be able to use. Please confirm that under your proposals with regard to delivery of CLI The Network and hence Plan’s customers (and customers receiving calls from callers using your Gateway/SIMBox equipment) will be able to benefit from the following services. 6.1 returning missed calls; 6.2 sending SMSs; 6.3 screening unwanted or malicious calls; 6.4 seamless roaming on foreign networks; 6.5 seamless voicemail services when roaming abroad; and 6.6 that malicious and nuisance calls can be traced; 6.7 prepaid customers roaming abroad are able to make calls and for their account balance to be decremented correctly.
- The Network will need to ensure monitoring of your compliance with its requirements and secure (to the extent they do not already exist) contractual rights to enforce compliance with such principles and requirements. The Network would anticipate changes to the current contractual arrangements so as to include production of reports to ensure compliance, forecasts and dialogue between network planners to manage network congestion, rights for The Network to suspend services and to terminate following sufficient “cure periods”. Please confirm your acceptance of this approach, albeit that we will need to agree detailed terms.
Annex 2 – Gateway/SIMBox Application Timescales
The Network will make best endeavours to approve or reject the Gateway application within 28 Days of receipt of BOTH electronic AND signed paper registration request forms being received by Sales Operations.
The 28 Day SLA is subject to the following conditions:
- All the requested information on the form is supplied accurately and the devices/SIMS are used where detailed on the application form, the SLA time period does NOT commence until all this information is received.
- There is no misuse of the Gateway/SIMBox location by the Accounts during processing of application (i.e. new devices, new SIMs or traffic levels that exceed stated guidelines)
- Where an internal antenna is being used it does not require using the capacity of another Corporate In-building Solution.
Annex 3 – Connection Bonus Clawback
In the event that a connection made to The Network via Plan Communications Limited is found to be an illegal Gateway/SIMBox ALL GCBs (Connection and ARPU bonuses) plus revenue shares will be clawed back in full by Plan. The connection shall be deemed as void and consequently any volume bonus or ARPU target bonus payable will be adjusted accordingly.
Please note that all Gateway/SIMBox connections are exempt from standard commercial terms and need to be negotiated on a case by case basis.