South Africa: Concern Over Number Portability Delays

Johannesburg — THE South Africa's Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has expressed concern over what it believes is the lack of transparency and ongoing delays in the introduction of full number portability.

Some 13 years after the launch of mobile number portability, ISPA said consumers had received no word from the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) on why the industry cannot port non-geographic numbers used for toll-free, shared-cost, premium rate and general voice services.

The prefixes are 0800, 0860, 0861, 0862 and 087.

"ISPA members receive daily requests from consumers looking to port non-geographic numbers but are not able to accommodate these requests due to the delay in implementing the regulations. It looks like this delay could continue for years, to the ongoing prejudice of consumers," said Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory adviser.

A major reason for the implementation delay is Cell C having approached the courts in April this year for a review of certain aspects of amended Numbering Portability Regulations.

The mobile operator believes some provisions harm their ability to port mobile numbers away from rivals Vodacom and MTN.

ISPA believes Cell C's decision to attack the entire set of regulations rather than the specific provisions it has issues with, is damaging competition in the country's telecoms sector and harming consumers.

ICASA has thus far failed to proactively and transparently communicate an effective date for non-geographic number portability or provide reasons for the delay, according to ISPA.

"While the ligation is ongoing, ICASA should consider promulgating a commencement date of those sections that are not directly related to the porting process of mobile numbers," Cull said.

Since 2006, more than 8 million people have chosen to change their mobile network operator without losing their mobile number.

Over 1 million geographic numbers have been ported.

Cull said the figures indicated consumer demand for porting.

"However there seems to be no urgency from anyone to actually do anything about the current situation where the framework is in place but is not being put into force," he concluded.

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