ICASA unshackles VoIP market with new number portability

Large corporates and countrywide call centres who rely on telephonic communications have good news coming in March.  At the end of last year, ICASA announced a long overdue implementation of the Number Portability regulations, allowing businesses who rely on 087, 0800, 0860 or 0861 numbers and the like to be able to port or transfer their number to another service provider.

Previously, businesses were essentially locked into their original service provider once a number was allocated. Any non-geographic toll-free, shared-cost, premium rate and VoIP services were impacted.  Number portability is a process that allows customers to keep their numbers when switching from one service provider (licensee) to another.   The implementation by ICASA of the long-awaited regulations enables businesses to finally exercise consumer choice without losing their telephone number.

Riaan Pietersen, General Manager of Wanatel, a leading South African VoIP provider welcomed the move. “The announcement, although overdue, helps ensure we have healthy competition in the telecommunications market, with a focus on consumer standards and market demand. I think we will see an initial burst of activity where corporates make a shift and thereafter, the market will normalize.  We expect that this will raise the standard of service, flexibility and innovative alternatives for large corporates who until now have been unable to reap the full benefits of VoIP across their business.”

Many of the large corporates and contact centres impacted use easy to remember numbers which have immediate public recall. Advertising investments in these assets are often significant and have been the most immediate barrier to terminating or changing numbers where portability was not an option.

VoIP technologies progress at a rapid rate, and without the freedom to exercise supplier choice, many corporates may have missed out on the benefits and features offered today.   Cloud PBX for instance is a more cost-effective solution for telecommunications, where the management of equipment, hosting of the service and handling upgrades is left with the service provider. This can save corporates up to 40% on bills and move capex to opex – at a predictable monthly expense.  It saves on risky infrastructure investments and costly cloud migrations and top providers ensure redundancy with failover guarantees.

Pietersen adds: “The most attractive aspect of this new regulation for any corporate now would be ensuring there is no lock-in for future contracts.  Customers will be looking for contracts with short notice periods and the flexibility to add features, without breaking the bank, as well as large-scale infrastructure that can manage and maintain corporate traffic.”