Number portability: what will be in store for Trinidad and Tobago?
Trinidad and Tobago has announced its implementation plan for number portability. This post highlights and discusses key views and decisions of the Regulator.
Late last week, the telecoms Regulator, the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) published its “Implementation Plan on Number Portability for the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago”. The Plan, which is the final product of a consultation process that began in April 2010, sets out the Authority’s view on:
- the most efficient approach to number portability (NP) in Trinidad and Tobago, and
- an appropriate time table for its implementation.
The earlier consultation process sought to explore a variety of NP options, as summarised in Table 1, a combination of which could be adopted.
In our recent Snapshot: number portability in the Caribbean, we drew attention to the fact that there are several countries in the Caribbean that either, have not yet established a framework to realise NP, or have agreed on a plan that they should be working towards implementing. The post highlights and discusses key decisions taken by TATT, along with its position on some issues that might still be subject to further consultation. These views would be valuable contributions to the national conversations on NP that should be occurring across the region.
What is the final verdict?
The Authority’s final determination, as stated in the Plan, is that Service Provider Portability be implemented by fixed-line telecoms providers and by mobile/cellular providers in Trinidad and Tobago. The other porting options (Service Portability and Location Portability) will not be adopted at this time, but as per usual, the Authority reserved the right to revisit its position at a later date.
As a result, customers will be able to transfer their numbers between different service providers, particularly for the same service, e.g. from one mobile/cellular provider to another. However, they would not be allowed to request of a provider that offers both fixed-line and mobile/cellular services, that a fixed-line number become a mobile number, or vice versa.
When will NP be effective?
With regard to getting NP implemented, the Authority requires that, under the guidance of a Consultant, the industry/providers address and resolve the associated technical, administrative, financial and legal issues. However, the parties must have Service Provider Portability available to the public no later than nine months after that exercise commences.
Procuring the services of a Consultant will most likely be done via a tender process, to facilitate transparency and industry buy-in. That process could take as much as three months to complete, or to signal the start of the project. It therefore means that the earliest the project is likely to start would likely be around January 2013, and both fixed-line and mobile/cellular Service Provider Portability ought to be available in Trinidad and Tobago by the last quarter of 2013.
How much will it cost?
TATT has proposed that all costs associated with establishing and operating Service Provider Portability be borne by the service providers/licensees. Additionally, consumers ought not to be charged to have a number ported (i.e., transferred between service providers).
However, TATT will be allowing the providers to recover some of their establishment costs, but the mechanisms to do so, which will be proposed by the providers, will be subject to its approval. At this point, although unpleasant, it cannot be ruled out that TATT might approve a fixed-term levy that all customers might need to pay. Having said this, there are other options that could be considered, such as offsetting the establishment costs against licence fees or taxes payable by the affected providers.
It is also highlighted that TATT has only “proposed” how costs should be handled. It therefore suggests that it has only communicated its desired positions, and with justification – perhaps submitted by the Consultant and industry participants – the Authority may be required to amend its stance.
Pivotal issues worth mentioning
TATT has also considered some of the issues associated with NP that are often overlooked, but can have a significant impact on customer experience and the overall effectiveness of the regime. Its views on key issues are outlined below (Source: TATT). Further details are available in the Plan.
- Time to port. The time between a customer making a request to change service providers should be:
- no more than five working days initially for fixed line numbers and
- no more than three working days initially for mobile numbers.
- Denial to port. Providers shall not deny a request to port a number due to outstanding balances owed on that number, once customers have settled the amounts owed on their most recent bills.
- SMS service. Mobile/cellular service providers shall provide SMS service to all ported mobile/cellular numbers.
- Unlocking of mobile/cellular handsets. Provided the contract period has expired and upon the request of customers, mobile/cellular providers should unlock the handset or device.
- “Off net” alert. Service providers should configure their systems to alert customers when the number dialed has been ported and a different tariff will be applied to the call.
- Abuse of porting facility. Customers shall be permitted to port a telephone number, at no cost, once in every six-month period.
Image credit: Henrico Prins (flickr)