An 011 number may soon not come from Johannesburg

ICASA recently published its findings report for number portability, suggesting it may relax regulations on geographic number ports.

ICASA received submissions from Cell C, MTN, Neotel, Ohren Telecoms, Switch Telecom, Telkom, and Vodacom on the matter, with geographic number portability currently restricted to local area codes.

If a number is represented as 0NN ABC XXXX, then 0N represents an inter-provincial region, 0NN represents a city or town, and the 0NN ABC portion of the number is the local area code.

For example, in the number 012 362 XXXX:

  • 0N is 01, which represents Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North-West.
  • 0NN is 012, which represents Tshwane.
  • ABC is 362, which represents Hatfield.

However, voice over IP providers allow numbers to be ported outside their local areas, respecting only the city area code. Certain operators even allow subscribers to port outside their 0NN area.

This causes problems for networks which maintain compliance with the regulations, especially for subscribers who port out of Telkom, relocate, and then try to port back into Telkom.

ICASA said there was consensus that the 0NN restriction on ports could be relaxed to the 0N.

However, certain respondents argued that clear maps for 0NN areas are critical to ensure their compatibility with the location area codes used in mobile networks.

Telkom agreed with the proposal to allow 0N porting, but said legacy equipment currently restricts it to only supporting 0NN number porting.

It has requested an exemption until it has upgraded its platform. Only one third of its customers are on its new systems and its upgrade could last until 2021, said Telkom.

There are currently five 0N areas in South Africa:

  • 01 – Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North-West
  • 02 – Western and Northern Cape
  • 03 – KwaZulu-Natal
  • 04 – Eastern Cape
  • 05 – Free State

Non-geographic numbers

ICASA also asked operators whether non-geographic number porting should be allowed.

Currently, 080, 086, and 087 numbers are excluded from number portability.

ICASA found that, with the exception of Telkom, there is broad consensus on the inclusion of non-geographic numbers for portability.

It said that the Number Portability Company will be required to configure a specification for 080, 086, and 087 numbers.

“Most respondents argued that Telkom currently has a de facto monopoly on these numbers,” said ICASA.

“The lack of non-geographic number portability reduces the incentive for customers who have both geographic and non-geographic numbers from porting, as they are not able to take these numbers to a new operator.”

Telkom countered that these numbers are separate from the services provided to customers, and they should therefore not be subject to portability.

“It is Telkom’s view that where Telkom is the owner of the 080 or 086 number, that the customer is free to take services from another provider and Telkom will arrange forwarding to the new geographic numbers providing access to these services,” said ICASA.

Respondents complained that Telkom’s charges for forwarding would make the arrangement economically unfeasible, and Telkom is effectively preventing customers from moving to another service provider.

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An 011 number may soon not come from Johannesburg