What is SOMOS and How Does It Operate?

Phone numbers aren't tough to understand, but the infrastructure that underpins them can be complex. For our more technically-minded readers we like to unpack as many of the terms and technical aspects as possible. Today, we'll look at the database managers in the toll free sector and answer "what is SOMOS?"

Toll free numbers, or 800 numbers, are considered a public resource. Since the breakup of AT&T in the early 1980’s, the administration of toll free numbers has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the FCC.

In an effort to create an equitable system between long distance carriers, the FCC ordered the telecom industry to work together to come up with a solution to manage toll free numbers. The result was the creation of the SMS/800 Database, which is now managed by a company called SOMOS.

what is somos

What is the SMS/800 Database?

Created in 1993 as part of an FCC tariff, the SMS/800 Database is the central repository for toll free numbers. It is from the SMS/800 database that end users may subscribe to toll free numbers and implement or change routing instructions, the interface of which is operated by SOMOS.

The database was initially created with one issue in mind: number portability.

Prior to the creation of the SMS/800 Database, carriers retained direct control over toll free numbers and their routing information. Phone numbers could not be ported. This created a major problem in the eyes of the FCC, who demanded, for the sake of end users, to allow these numbers to be ported from one carrier to another. The eventual solution to this problem was to create a central database where all numbers would be managed.

The result of the creation of the SMS/800 Database was increased competition between long distance carriers whose customers suddenly had the ability to change carriers at will. The database stores all information about every phone number in existence, including routing and subscriber information. It communicates with other databases around the country, called Service Control Points (SCP’s), whose purpose is to mirror the SMS/800 database and relay information to carriers seeking to route a phone call.

Carriers, RespOrgs, and end users must interface with the SMS/800 Database to make any changes to a toll free number.

(In case you missed it, we've also recently answered the question What is a RespOrg?)

What is SOMOS?

SOMOS is a private company appointed by the FCC to manage the SMS/800 database as well as the user interface used by RespOrgs to manage toll free numbers. Any company who wishes to become a RespOrg must receive certification through SOMOS.

The core responsibility of SOMOS is to ensure that RespOrgs follow the FCC tariff rules in regards to number porting and management. It is their responsibility to uphold the entirety of the FCC tariff rules and to enforce them.

The tariff defines SOMOS’ role as follows:

The company (SOMOS) provides SMS/800 functions to Responsible Organizations (RespOrgs) through operation of the SMS/800. SMS/800 is an operations and administrative support system used for the creation and maintenance of call processing records for toll-free telephone numbers. It is also the source of toll-free number availability and reservation status information.

The SMS/800 will receive from the RespOrg the toll-free subscriber record and call routing information associated with the toll-free numbers reserved by, or assigned to, the RespOrg. These records will be downloaded to the appropriate Service Control Points (SCPs), (hereinafter referred to as databases), based on the area of service indicated in each record, subject to technical constraints.

SOMOS used to be called SMS/800, Inc. In 2015, they launched a comprehensive rebranding campaign, and in the process changed their name to SOMOS. The rebranding was meant to symbolize the company’s efforts to modernize the administration of the database, and to work with the industry as a partner to improve the relevance and value of toll free numbers in the 21rst century.

SOMOS is a neutral party that juggles the interests of end users, carriers, and RespOrgs, as well as ensuring the proper function of the system. In short, they are the referee for toll free.

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How was SOMOS appointed to manage the SMS/800?

From the beginning, the telecom industry insisted a private company manage the SMS/800. For this purpose, the company SMS/800, inc. was formed.

As with other public utilities, however, the company is subject to renewal at regular intervals, requiring a detailed bid on the cost of the database’s administration at each renewal period. The bidding process is open to other companies who may wish to take on the role as “primary carrier” for the administration of the database. In fact, this scenario took place recently when iConnectiv submitted a competitive bid against the current administrator for the local number database, Neustar, which was accepted by the FCC.

For the past two years, iConnectiv and Neustar have been working on a transition of services. The same could happen with SOMOS, although it is very unlikely.

In summary, SOMOS is a key player in the toll free space. They are continually striving to innovate in the telecom sector and to improve on the toll free number system that is in place.

To learn more about SOMOS and all that they are doing, visit www.somos.com/about-us.

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