South African companies that have used Telkom numbers for years are waiting for the opportunity to switch to better, non-Telkom alternatives.
This is according to the Internet Service Providers’ Association, which noted that the recent withdrawal of Cell C’s High Court action opens up the opportunity to fully implement number portability.
Mobile number portability was implemented in South Africa in 2006, allowing consumers to switch mobile operators and keep their mobile numbers.
However, it remains impossible to port non-geographic numbers such as those used for toll-free, shared-cost, premium rate, and general voice services.
Many local businesses use non-geographic Telkom numbers that are easy to recall and recognise, and ISPA said a large number of these companies have long wished to move to alternative providers that are cheaper and better.
“ISPA members have reported substantial pent-up demand from users of these numbers who wish to be able to switch to better, non-Telkom alternatives,” ISPA said.
“These users are usually large corporates or NGOs that have invested in the often easy-to-recall numbers as part of their corporate identity.”
Ready to port immediately
ISPA said that its members are prepared to port their numbers to non-Telkom operators immediately and with the withdrawal of Cell C’s court case against number portability, this process should be expedited.
“Three months after Cell C withdrew its High Court action that stalled the full implementation of number portability, and some 15 years after the launch of mobile number portability in 2006, South Africans still do not have full freedom of choice when it comes to telephony providers,” ISPA said.
“Members of ISPA, however, stand ready to immediately port non-geographic numbers and the Association welcomes Cell C’s withdrawal of its litigation against ICASA (the Independent Communications Authority of SA), which was the only obstacle to the implementation of a framework which will allow all numbers to be ported.”
The organisation noted all that remains for the South African economy and consumer to enjoy the full benefits of number portability is for ICASA to complete its review of the Number Portability Regulations Ordering System Specification and to pronounce the implementation date.
It argued that this could be completed relatively quickly and there is no reason full number portability cannot be implemented in March 2021.
No more unnecessary delays
ISPA said the withdrawal of Cell C’s legal action removes the last barrier preventing South African businesses from porting non-geographic numbers away from Telkom and that the full implementation of number portability is long overdue.
In 2019, Cell C launched an application in the High Court for the review and setting aside of the implementation of the Number Portability Regulations 2018.
ISPA said that despite Cell C having a narrow issue with parts of the regulations, it elected to attack the full regulations, which meant fixed line consumers have continued to miss out on competition.
“The voice market has matured since the Telkom monopoly days and there is now massive choice with lower rates and better service available without being locked into long-term agreements,” said ISPA’s regulatory advisor Dominic Cull.
“Once ICASA has done its work, many of us will finally be able to get a better deal without losing the number associated with their business.”