The further implementation of the principle of number portability as envisioned in the draft number portability regulations currently under review is a welcome additional step in the liberalisation of the South African telecommunications sector.
This is according to independent voice and data provider, Otel Communications, which says the focus should now be on ICASA’s speedy review of the comments received during the public consultation process which ended on 29 January 2018.
“It’s now almost one month since the deadline for written submissions on the draft regulations expired. South Africa is gripped with a new urgency following the installation of President Cyril Ramaphosa. This desire to get things quickly moving in the right direction should extend to the telecoms regulator which must now be encouraged to finalise the revision of the number portability regulations of 2005,” says Otel CEO, Rad Jankovic.
Number portability enables fixed and mobile telecommunications customers to keep their existing telephone numbers when switching from one provider to another. The draft number portability regulations were published in the Government Gazette on 24 November 2017 as General Notice 1309 in Government Gazette 41275. This opened up the public consultation process which has now been complete since the end of last month.
Mr Jankovic says Otel is supportive of many aspects of the draft regulations, in particular the introduction of porting for the 086 and 087 number ranges. Many numbers in these ranges are used by call centres and it would be a big potential boost for small and medium-sized independent telecoms providers to be able to compete for this business.
The first beneficiaries several years ago of the ability to port one’s telephone number to another provider, for whatever reason, were cellular consumers. Landline porting was later introduced, leading to further competition benefits for local telecoms consumers.
“Losing one’s phone number when changing to a new telephone network was always one of the biggest barriers to switching providers. The introduction of number portability was a wake-up call to the incumbents who saw themselves having to work hard to retain customers for the first time ever.
“Let’s now introduce these competitive benefits to the 087 and 086 call centre market,” concluded Mr Jankovic.