OUR hunts number portability manager
McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
The Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) is recruiting a provider of number portability administration services to Jamaican telecoms ahead of its May 2015 number portability rollout.
The selected provider is expected to develop and manage a central reference database and automated order handling process for inter-operator communications for both fixed and mobile telephony, the OUR said.
Number portability allows phone subscribers to retain their numbers when switching networks. It makes it easier for customers to switch networks and as such is expected to lead to a more competitive telecommunications market.
The system was expected to be implemented in May, but the deadline was pushed back a year to facilitate one of the carriers. State Minister Julian Robinson told lawmakers at mid-year that the new May 2015 date may also be missed if LIME Jamaica was unable to meet that time limit.
He said that while two other carriers, Digicel and Flow, had received the necessary internal approvals and budget, LIME only gave a commitment in relation to its mobile network.
Asked whether it has now given a commitment to number portability for both its mobile and landline networks, LIME gave a non-answer, which appeared to sum up to no.
"At every stage of the process, LIME has and will continue to play an active role in the implementation of number portability," said Corporate Communications Manager Elon Parkinson.
"We continue to highlight our unique circumstance of having a legacy of fixed network for the fuller understanding and consideration of all stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation phases," he said.
The OUR said LIME, the incumbent fixed-line operator, controls the largest fixed network.
A significantly large number of telecoms licences to provide fixed-line services have been issued by Phillip Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for technology, but the OUR has issued numbers to only 12 operators, and not all of those operators are currently offering service, the regulator said.
"There are, however, indications for increased competition and subscriber growth in this market," OUR said.
The largest of the competing fixed-line providers is Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, trading as Flow, whose business includes cable TV distribution based on the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification with support of telephony.
According to the OUR, the mobile penetration rate in Jamaica currently is over 100 per cent, while the rate for fixed-line has remained below 15 per cent.
Jamaica is part of the North American Numbering Plan area with the code 876, whose numbering capacity is approaching exhaustion. It plans to introduce a second area code, which will necessitate a move from seven-digit to 10-digit local dialling.
The OUR said the area code represents about eight million telephone numbers, typically assigned to telecommunications operators in blocks of 10,000 based on service type.
"Jamaicans tend to regard numbers as important and as a form of personal identification - they would not favour number changes, even if they are facilitated, because they like to minimise hassle," the regulator said.
"Since many Jamaicans emigrate, people will fear losing touch with old friends, who have emigrated, if they change numbers, that is, there are a significant number of valued calls from people who may not have called for several years. This distinct cultural attitude to numbers favours number portability."
Applicants for licence to manage the central database are required to submit technical and price proposals. Bids are due by December 1.
The proposals are tentatively scheduled to be evaluated between December 2 and 31, and the winning bid selected by January 5.