Local number portability arrives

Local number portability has finally made its debut in the Cayman market.

The process, which allows telephone users to keep their telephone number when moving to another provider, went live on Monday. Porting, as the process is called, will only be available from a mobile number to a mobile number, or from a fixed line number to a fixed line number. The process had been delayed many times due to technical challenges as well as the sensitive negotiations between the competitor telecommunications operators – Digicel and 
LIME – that formed part of the committee controlling the process.

The Information and Communications Technology Authority of the Cayman Islands, which is responsible for all matters related to the telecommunications industry in Cayman, had originally set a final deadline of late January 2012 to go live. But due to delays, the date was pushed back to 20 February to give operators time to complete systems testing required to make porting a reality.

“The introduction today of LNP in the Cayman Islands is welcomed by the ICT Authority,” said David Archbold, managing director of the authority.

According to Mr. Archbold, the process was mandated by the authority in December 2008 and during the subsequent three years the service providers have been selecting and implementing the systems necessary to make it a reality.

“By removing most of the inconvenience and reducing the costs associated with changing service providers, LNP gives consumers greater choice and increases competition,” Mr. Archbold said. He said that as far as he was aware, the Cayman Islands are the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking Caribbean to introduce local number portability. The availability of fixed line and mobile portability will remove a big disincentive for businesses to switch providers, as business owners faced much greater costs associated with switching between providers. These costs arose primarily from the need to reprint business cards, letterheads and promotional materials when changing a telephone number, as well as the potential for lost business due to customers not being familiar with the new number. However, it is likely that the initial movement will take place in the consumer mobile space, which has been considerably more volatile even before the implementation of local number portability.

Victor Corcoran, chief executive officer of Digicel Cayman, said the company was looking forward to the opportunities and challenges of local number portability.

“Digicel as a company is very excited about it. We are known for championing competition. We have seen rates come down significantly since competition came into the marketplace. We believe that number portability will be another important step. We think this is a huge opportunity for the business,” he said.

Tony Ritch, general manager of LIME Cayman Islands, said the company was pleased local number portability is a reality in Cayman.

“LIME is pleased to say that as of 20th February we are accepting porting requests from consumers. If people need any more information on local number portability they can visit our website or visit any of our stores and our staff will be happy to help,” he said.

To coincide with the launch of LNP, the authority has published on its website a series of questions and answers to help inform the public on the subject. It is available at www.icta.ky/consumer_lnp.php or by visiting the ICTA offices.

“We hope that our consumer advice will help customers understand how LNP works – for example, how customers actually go about changing their telecoms provider while keeping their telephone number and how much it is likely to cost them to do so,” said Mr. Archbold.

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  1. With local network operators charging different rates for calling other networks, how will it be possible now to identify which network you are calling? Previously you could determine which network you were calling from the initial three numbers. Networks should introduce a flat rate for calling ANY local mobile operator as a result of this change to avoid customers paying excessive charges for calling the ‘wrong’ operator.