Monday, 12 November 2012

Namibian Telephone Numbering Plan

Your telephone number belongs to you. This is a basic accepted principle by any consumer. After all, who would dial your number unless they wanted to speak to you?

It should therefore mean that you can keep your number even if you change your provider from Leo to MTC or even from a mobile company like MTC to your home telephone. The idea that your number belongs to you is called number portability and the method of implementing this is through a National Telephone Numbering Plan.

As a consumer, you have an attachment to your number. After all, you give out on your CV, to your friends and family and to creditors. If you change your telephone service provider, you will have to face the inconvenience of learning the new number, changing your documents and making sure everyone knows your new number. This inconvenience has a financial cost and could be important in forcing you to stay with your service provider, even if you are unhappy with the service, or can get a better deal from another provider.
Being able to change your provider without changing your number gives you, as the consumer, the power and the right to choose the telephone service provider that makes you happy with it price, service and products.

Since 2002, most countries around the world have opened their telecommunications markets to competition (that include a national numbering plan), which has accelerated the deployment of telecommunications services more quickly and cost-effectively than past monopolies have achieved. 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:
• In the case of geographic numbers, at a specific location; and
• In the case of non-geographic numbers, at any location.”

The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is mandated to establishing a numbering plan and to require mobile number portability by 2013. According to a recent advertisement, CRAN s looking for sufficient information to justify the implementation of number portability taking into account consumer needs, ensuring fair competition in the market and economic feasibility.
CRAN will have to establish a numbering policy that provides a legal, legislative, and regulatory basis for competition. Then CRAN ust decide on numbering and dialing 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.

From discussions with CRAN and industry representatives, it is obvious that certain telephone providers would prefer not to have a numbering plan implemented. The argument being put forward is that the plan has not worked well in some countries because of the costs involved, the implementing agency not being technically capable, etc.

It is understandable that CRAN should look at the costs or other issues involved for the providers as they will put these costs on to us as the end user. However, the power granted to the consumer to change providers will force cheaper prices and a better service which is the ultimate reason for the establishment of regulatory authorities that need to “take into account consumer needs”.

As consumers, we often do not have the regulations or protection we need because we lack an adequately funded organisation that will look after our needs and address issues such as the national numbering plan to ensure that government and its regulatory authorities such as CRAN  Electricity Control Board, etc do “take into account consumer needs”.

This needs to change.

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