Monday, July 17, 2006

The South African regulator - ICASA

Whilst we hope that the situation regarding our regulator will change, the current structure is most concerning.

I've been writing to them about the number portability regulations to no avail. I can't even get an acknowledgement. I sent it by fax on June 14 to both chairpersons. Unfortunately I have still not even received an acknowledgment of receipt. All I want to do is move my 082 number from one Vodacom SP to another Vodacom SP.... but it's still totally impossible and there is no indication of when it may become possible.
The opening address made by 'CLR NADIA BULBULIA' at the end of last month reflects clearly in the Interest of the telco's and not in the interest of consumers. She stated "The Authority will ensure that the rights of the consumer are protected in full during the number portability process."
Where to next?
The councellors concluding remark - possibly her final remark as an ICASA counciller - caught my attention, "Thank you for attending this briefing and may I remind you that ICASA is leading the way in making telecommunications services affordable and accessible to all"

From: Alan Levin
Date: 18 May 2006 12:27:54 PM
To: Nadia Bulbulia , Paris Mashile <***>
Subject: Number portability - consumer appeal

Dear Chairpersons,

I am writing to you as a concerned end user of a range of mobile telecommunications services, and provider of services that depend on these networks. I believe that number portability has proven itself internationally as an effective mechanism for consumer protection and increased competition and compliment you on your priority placed on these regulations. Today, I appeal to you that ICASA ensures that the delay imposed by the network operators on number portability, minimises disadvantage to the consumer.

One way to protect the consumer that I propose, is you declare that from the date on which the number portability was to be effected, consumers of mobile services are allowed to put their number 'on ice' until number portability is properly enabled. By this, I mean that consumers should be able to retain ownership of their existing mobile network phone numbers without having to continue to pay (out of contract) monthly post-payment or pre-payment or other fees. This will allow users to choose either to continue with their existing service provider and/or contract or make some other interim arrangement, without fear of 'losing' their existing number. For example, an existing MTN post-paid customer could switch to pre-paid or even use an alternative Vodacom pre-paid account (with Vodacom pre-paid number) until number portability is enabled, without losing the right to use their current MTN number. Once number portability is enabled on the networks, then the user can associate their long-held or vanity number with any account that they wish.

My motivation for this is that it is currently in the interests of the mobile telephone network operators to delay number portability for as long as possible, as this locks current users in to existing contracts and ensures that prices are not effected due to the increase in competition. Even if users cannot yet port their long- held number to the provider/contract of their choice, they should be able to assert their right to a long-held or vanity number from the number portability regulation inception date. They will thus no longer be held captive to existing provider arrangements.

Whilst this proposal is not a satisfactory outcome for any delay in number portability, it is a small compromise to the consumer. Doing this will both move the market a step towards greater competition (as the number portability regulations intend), whilst putting some necessary pressure on the network operators to make full number portability a reality as soon as possible.

Lastly I point out that comments made by CUASA appear to represent consumer interests. I note that CUASA members include only paid up organisations, most of which are private companies. I am not aware of any inclusive process involving end users. Whilst many of their comments in this regard may be in consumers interests, I remain concerned about how to discern the interests of their members from individual consumers. They make a valid point regarding the pricing of number transfer can be used to inhibit the primary purpose of number portability and I hope that you will ensure that these costs are not directly passed onto the consumer as an additional revenue stream or profit centre, but covered by the network operators as part of their regulatory compliance.

I hope that you will consider this proposal favorably. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or questions.


Alan Levin


Blogger aLan said...

I'm so pleased to report that I managed to get hold of the chairperson yesterday and I'm hopeful that he's going to help. The regulations have been delayed again, but he said that he felt that since it was the operators whom are delaying, the consumer should be allowed to freeze their accounts. It's looking positive, I'm feeling positive.

10:10 pm  
Blogger aLan said...

Just to update you, the Chairperson did finally come through so it's a happy(ish) ending (well hopefully this is the last delay in number portability - Nov 10, 2006).

Two weeks ago I was advised that the best way to do this (park your number) is to convert to pre-paid (no expensive contract fees) and then make one sms per month (until the Number Portability takes effect). Okay, it's cost me over R2,500, but all good lessons. We're now selling cellular connections so it's been very valuable, and useful for the future. My hat off to Mr Mashile, thanks (and Good Luck)!

5:44 pm  

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