by Staff Writer

South African mobile and fixed-line telephone customers seem to be generally doing well, thanks to the number portability regulation giving them more options: to choose when to stay or dump either Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom.

But can you believe it, the average number of numbers ported every month is 45 521.

This could indicate that consumers are happy with their network operator – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom.

Consumers may be happy with the packages, data and call rates provided by the big four operators or are frustrated by the porting process.

Number Portability is the process that enables end-users to retain their telephone numbers when changing from one network operator to another.

From November 2006 to end January 2017, more than 6,1 million subscribers ported their mobile numbers, according to the Number Portability Company (NPC), which was supposed to protect the customer by enabling him or her to vote with their feet when they are not happy with the Telco services, seems concerned with service woes.

The NPC is owned jointly by Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom and Neotel, each of which owns 20% and has board seats. The company was founded in 2006 to enable customers to have the ability to retain their phone numbers when they switched networks.

The ability to port numbers was meant to give customers more options, but its arrival in 2006 proved to be a damp squib.

That said the country’s industry watchdog, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), seems to be planning to change the regulations governing number porting.

Icasa announced on Tuesday that it will hold public hearings on number portability regulations as published on 26 August 2016.

The hearings will be held on 16 February at Icasa’s offices in Sandton from 09:00.

Icasa said the purpose of the inquiry is to determine the strengths and weakness of the current number portability framework and if there are regulatory gaps arising from the market and regulatory development.

The inquiry will also look at the impact of the current number portability framework on licensees and the general public; and t determine what regulatory interventions, if any, are necessary.

The regulator said number portability has benefits to end-users in that, it promotes customer choice, improves service competition hence the quality of service, consumers avoid the cost of number changes and an increased value of the customer number.

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