The second and final stage of the introduction of fixed-line number portability, which will allow individual Telkom customers to switch networks without losing their numbers, has been delayed by about five weeks.
The first phase of fixed-line number portability, also known as geographic number portability (GNP), kicked off in May last year; the second, more important phase, which allows individual numbers to be ported, was meant to begin on Thursday this week.
But a well-placed industry source says implementation has been delayed until 26 April to accommodate final testing of IT systems, among other things.
The Number Portability Company, which already handles number porting for the mobile operators, will manage individual GNP on behalf of the operators. Vodacom, MTN and Cell C have agreed to dilute their shareholding in the company to allow Telkom and Neotel to become shareholders, too.
It’s understood the deal has already been agreed to by the mobile operators and is now awaiting signature by Telkom and Neotel before full implementation can begin. The Number Portability Company has implemented the necessary systems and is understood to be ready to begin porting fixed-line numbers.
The move to individual GNP should make SA’s fixed-line communications market more competitive, adding to pressures facing incumbent fixed-line operator Telkom.
That’s the view Vox Telecom CEO Tony van Marken (pictured), who says the first phase of fixed-line portability, introduced in May 2009, and in effect for the past 10 months, has had “no real impact”. That’s because during this phase, industry regulator Icasa allows numbers to be ported in blocks of 1 000 or 10 000 numbers, he says.
“Though single-number portability allows individual residential customers to have a choice [of switching], the real opportunity is in the corporate sector where companies have hundreds of fixed-line numbers,” says Van Marken.
He says the introduction of single-number porting could result in a “mass migration” of customers to smaller, more innovative operators.
“GNP is a significant step in levelling the playing field for all the new network operators,” says Van Marken.
“We believe GNP will have a big take-up compared to the muted response to mobile number porting,” he adds. “The cellular players offer similar fees and services to their rivals, making it barely worth switching networks. But the cost and quality of landline services varies significantly between rival players, so customers have much to gain by switching networks.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral