The mobile telephone market in Trinidad and Tobago has been rapidly growing with the country currently experiencing a mobile telephone penetration of 137 per 100 inhabitants. Fixed telephone penetration currently stands at 67 per 100 households. This growth has been stimulated by competition in both the fixed line and mobile telephone markets.
The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) is seeking to further increase competition in these markets by implementing Number Portability.
Number Portability stimulates competition by affording consumers the opportunity to switch from one service provider to another without the headache of having to change telephone numbers.
Additionally, there is a statutory requirement for the implementation of this service as outlined in the Telecommunications Act 2001 at Section 25 (2) (j) which states that the Authority shall require a concessionaire to “…provide, to the extent technically feasible, number portability when required to do so and in accordance with the requirements prescribed, by the Authority.”
Furthermore, Clause (9) of the Telecommunications (Interconnection) Regulations 2006 states, in reference to facilitation of Number Portability, “A concessionaire shall configure its network to facilitate number portability between similar networks as and when directed by the Authority.”
Clause 2 (1) of the Regulation defines Number Portability as “the ability of a customer to retain the same telephone number on changing telephone service provider.”
The implementation of Number Portability is also supported by a preliminary assessment of consumer demand for the service established by a Customer Satisfaction Survey, conducted by the Authority in 2011. The enquiry in the survey was an attempt to ascertain whether or not there is a demand for the service by consumers.
Consumers appreciate the fact that Number Portability would eliminate the need to engage in the onerous activity of informing business contacts, friends and family, locally and abroad when a telephone number is changed.
Changing telephone numbers can be particularly challenging, not to mention expensive for corporate users who would be required to inform customers and other stakeholders, by way of advertising, in addition to adjusting telephone numbers on all literature and stationery.
There are three basic types of Number Portability – Service Provider Portability, Location or Geographic Portability and Service Portability. However, Service Provider Number Portability is the type to be used in Trinidad and Tobago as described in the Telecommunications (Interconnections) Regulations 2006.
Service Provider Number Portability gives users the freedom to change their service providers without the inconvenience of changing their original telephone numbers. This facility allows for versatility as it applies to mobile to mobile service provider number portability as well as fixed line to fixed line service provider number portability.
Initially, the Authority intends to focus on the mobile telephone service and secondly on fixed line service. Additionally, in line with recent implementations around the world, it is proposed that the All Calls Query with a centralised clearinghouse method will be utilised.
Number Portability emerged in the mid-1990s to facilitate competition and as a means to conserve telephone numbers in the fixed line telephone market. The service subsequently became necessary with the advent and rapid spread of the mobile telephone market.
Many countries in the Caribbean are yet to implement Number Portability. The Dominican Republic is one notable exception where the service has been implemented. The service is also being considered for implementation in Jamaica and work has been on-going in the Cayman Islands for some time, to implement the service.
In the move towards implementing the service in Trinidad and Tobago, TATT has prepared and consulted on a document titled “Implementation Plan on Number Portability for Trinidad and Tobago” on which two rounds of consultation have taken place. Having received and taken into consideration comments and suggestions from stakeholders in the sector, the final document is due to be released in the 4th quarter of 2012, after which focus will be placed on implementation.
Before implementation, a number of issues have to be taken into consideration, including what is the most appropriate model that would support the variables unique to the jurisdiction.
Concomitantly, service providers will be required to play a primary role in the implementation of Number Portability, which would start with the formation of working committees to comprehensively address the following:
In order to ensure the successful rollout of Number Portability in Trinidad and Tobago, TATT has determined to undertake the project on a phased basis. The phased approach would allow for the effective elimination of challenges along the way while at the same time ensuring that service providers are an integral part of the implementation effort.
Number Portability is set to be of great benefit to all customers in Trinidad and Tobago who would experience improved quality of service as operators vie to provide a better quality of service to retain their customer base.