Sunday, 12 April 2009

Keep you cell number - change your network

Number Portability

Most countries around the world have opened their telecommunications markets to competition, which has accelerated the deployment of telecommunications services more quickly and cost-effectively than past monopolies have achieved.

Some of these liberalisation efforts are being driven by regulations that call for number portability. For example, the European Union (EU) Universal Service and Users' Rights Directive (2002/22/EC), Article 30 - effective since July 2003 - imposes on all EU member states the following obligations:
Member states shall ensure that all subscribers of publicly available telephone services, including mobile services, who so request can retain their number(s) independently of the undertaking providing the service:
" o In the case of geographic numbers, at a specific location; and
" o In the case of non-geographic numbers, at any location.

As consumers we have must have the choice of which service provider we want to use. Most cellular and telephone subscribers however do not wish to lose their present number and therefore stay with the present provider. One of the toughest responsibilities facing the regulators in the Namibian telecom markets involves modernising our national numbering policies, numbering plans, and dialling plans.

We have to establish a numbering policy that provides a legal, legislative, and regulatory basis for competition. Then, our regulator must decide on numbering and dialling schemes, services, technologies, and billing and tariff methods that support its chosen numbering policy.

Lastly, it must also establish a fair, neutral office for numbering administration.

(I have heard the argument of the costs of implementing such a system – this however is always only the argument of the company with the biggest client base.)

The Namibia Consumer Protection Group welcomes number portability for ushering in greater freedom of choice, spurring competition and encouraging technological innovation. LNP removes barriers to switching and provides consumers with a greater choice of carriers and the convenience of keeping their existing numbers. It benefits the ratepayer, the consumer.Whether they have switched cell phone carriers or not, customers have already started reaping the benefits of lower prices and attractive packages offered by wireless carriers as inducements to keep customers from switching.

That’s the benefit of freedom of choice and competition.