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Number portability is a sham, says Vox

Fixed number portability is a sham, writes JACQUES DU TOIT, MD of voice solutions provider Vox Orion MD. Ever-shifting deadlines as well as limitations on smaller companies porting have made fixed number portability a non-starter in the business world.

Fixed number portability, intended to increase competition by allowing customers to change fixed line providers without changing their numbers, is a sham.

There is no way the vast majority of South African businesses or consumers will benefit from the way the system has been set up. It’s taken nearly six years since the telecoms market was officially deregulated to come up with something that doesn’t actually work.

For a business your telephone number is like your ID, you don’t change it. ‚That is the single biggest thing that locks customers in to contracts and service providers that aren’t delivering value.

Full fixed number portability was supposed to have been available in late 2008. We have not only got it late, we have got much less than what was promised. After intense lobbying by Telkom, ICASA has announced that only customers with blocks of 1,000 consecutive numbers or more will be able to port their numbers.

Only a tiny handful of South Africa’s largest enterprises will qualify.

It does absolutely nothing for the larger market. It’s a sham: on paper it looks as though we have number portability, but in reality the incumbents have got exactly what they wanted.

Full number portability is promised for some time next year, but we have little faith this deadline will be met. The deadlines have shifted many times already and we fully expect them to shift again. Telkom is claiming there are ‚technical difficulties‚ , but we know they are using the time to lock as many customers as possible into new three- to five-year contracts.

At the moment, a customer who wants to make use of an alternative provider will actually face higher costs. Nobody wants to lose their old numbers, so they will end up with a second provider, a second line rental bill, another port on their PBX and so on.

This is not what competition is supposed to be about.

About Vox Orion

Vox Orion is focused on delivering complete managed voice solutions to the top-end corporate market. Considered a pioneer in what was known as the least cost routing (LCR) market, Vox Orion has since extended its solution offering. Vox Orion serves 60% of the top 200 listed companies on the JSE as well as four provincial governments, SANDF, SAPS and 56 local town councils. Vox Orion has offices in all the major South African cities as well as nine smaller towns.

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