The launch of number portability in Jamaica has been “imminent” for a number of years. With the recently announced change of date, yet again, will Jamaica ever achieve number portability?
In his sectoral debate presentation on 11 June, Hon. Julian Robison, Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, advised the Jamaican Parliament that number portability was again delayed. The revised launch date is now May 2015, having stated during last year’s debate that it would be launched by March 2014, which was then shifted to May 2014, and then December 2014.
As expected, the Government has been roundly criticised for not being able to successfully implement number portability. Mobile penetration in Jamaica was estimated at 96.5 per 100 in habitants for 2012, and in the absence number portability, consumers might still have a phone for each operator in order to avoid the higher off-network calling rates.
Complex process or stonewalling by the telcos?
From all accounts, the Government intends to implement both fixed-line and mobile/cellular number portability, as there are two or more providers available in each market segment. Although it would appear that the arrangements for mobile/cellular number portability might be at a more advance stage than for fixed-line number portability, it has been reported that the telcos want both of them implemented at the same time:
…Robinson admitted that the ministry would still have a challenge meeting next May’s deadline, as one of the providers, LIME, has indicated that they would only be ready with mobile portability by that time, while the others — Digicel and FLOW — are insisting that they will not go ahead unless it is full mobility.
He also explained that LIME has indicated that, because of its legacy systems, it is more challenging for them to implement number portability…
(Source: Jamaica Observer)
As noted in our previous articles on the issues, such as our latest Snapshot update, number portability can be complicated to implement, and frequently, the process can be lengthy. However, for all intent and purposes, it has been an active issue for the Jamaican regulator, the Office of Utilities Regulation, for at least the past five years. In that period, telecos, such as LIME, could have been making the requisite adjustments to their systems that would now facilitate number porting, as opposed to waiting until what appears to be the 11th hour to do so, hereby delaying the process considerably.
Having said this, the delay also allows LIME to continue to re-position its fixed-line offerings to make them more competitive and comparable to the services offered by Flow and Digicel, hopefully to retain most of their existing customer base when porting becomes a reality. However, it also speaks to the fact of how neglected LIME Jamaica’s fixed-line network has been over the past several years, as invariably, its focus would have been on competing with Digicel in the mobile/cellular space.
Poor project planning, poor project management
Thanks to the manner in which this situation has unfolded, what has been especially disconcerting is the considerable delays experienced to date. With so many years to prepare, did all of the parties fully understand the number portability process, what it would entail, and their responsibilities therein? Did the telcos understand their own networks and what would be required to make them porting-ready? Were the dates announced politically motivated, with little or no bearing on the process or on advice provided?
Although we might never fully know for sure the factors that have contributed to the delays, what ought to be understood is that persons do rely on the information placed in the public domain, especially when done by those who should be in a position to provide authoritative insight into the matter. It therefore underscores the need for the parties involved in realising number portability in Jamaica to work assiduously to the revised timelines provided. They ought to appreciate that consumers are making decisions based on those commitments, and by now, they all ought to know what is required of them to successfully complete the process.
Image credit: Andriyko_UA (Wikimedia Commons)