South Africa’s mobile networks are not allowed to port cellphone numbers during the national 21-day lockdown.
Legislation enacted by the government as part of the COVID-19 lockdown states that “mobile number portability” cannot be executed.
The Government Gazette which contains the legislation – available for PDF download here – states the following:
Prohibition on price increment and mobile number portability
All licensed entities must not effect any price increases and not perform mobile number portability for duration of the COVID-19 national disaster.
This Gazette was published on 26 March, and came into effect on the same date. The government did not specify why it had implemented this legislation, however.
MyBroadband therefore asked South African mobile network operators about the government’s decision to ban the porting of mobile numbers during the lockdown.
Vodacom said it was aware the government had prohibited the porting of numbers through the 26 March Government Gazette.
“In line with government’s notice gazetted regarding the National Disaster Management Act, porting of numbers is currently strictly prohibited,” said Vodacom.
“This means that customers cannot port in or out of any network during this lockdown period.”
MTN confirmed that it was unable to port mobile numbers during the lockdown.
“There has been no official reason provided to MTN,” the company said. “The company has opted to follow the minister’s directive.”
However, MTN said it is a practice within the porting process that numbers are activated on recipient networks before they are deactivated off donor networks.
It said this happens during the network synchronisation period.
“However, it should be noted that although mobile number portability has been suspended during this pandemic as per the minister’s instructions, the number portability company is still processing reversals to ensure that customers are not stranded,” said MTN.
Cell C told MyBroadband it was abiding by the Government Gazette’s rules.
Cell C also confirmed that it would have rejected any port request by a consumer during this time – and customers will have to request another port after the lockdown period is over.
“Porting would not have happened anyway if the number is deactivated,” said Cell C.
Telkom acknowledged MyBroadband’s request for comment, and attached a copy of the regulations as its reply.