Nic Laschinger, CTO, Euphoria Telecom
Regulations to enable businesses to port non-geographic numbers were proclaimed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) recently.
This means businesses that are reliant on their 0800; 0860; 0861; 0862 and 087 phone numbers now have the choice of telecommunications service provider and are no longer tied into Telkom’s services.
The regulations have taken some 16 years to to be finalised and published, and will take effect from 7 March this year.
It is number portability that enables a consumer or business to leave one telecommunications service provider and move to another, taking their number with them.
For larger businesses in particular, changing numbers comes with significant costs and inconvenience.
Changing all of a company’s marketing collateral and business information – think directory listings, advertisements, business cards and so on – can become incredibly expensive.
By porting numbers, businesses and consumers can avoid both the cost and the hassle of updating their numbers with everyone they engage with.
Before the new regulations were proclaimed in December, only geographic numbers (011, 021 and so on) and mobile numbers (082, 083, etc) could be ported.
This posed a significant problem for larger businesses with inbound call centres on non-geographic numbers.
If Telkom had a problem, their call centres would go offline.
The call centre industry is a major employer in South Africa, employing some 270,000 people, according to Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA) data.
Business process outsourcing – which sees overseas companies outsource their call centres to South African businesses to perform business services – has been identified by President Cyril Ramaphosa as a critical growth sector to enable our economic recovery.
This followed South Africa’s sector being announced as the most favoured global offshore destination for 2021.
In enabling non-geographic number portability, ICASA has introduced competition to a segment of the local telecommunications market that desperately needs it.
Call centre businesses will now be able to choose providers that meet their needs exactly, and businesses will be able to switch providers without incurring massive costs.
The move will have a positive impact on competition in the sector as a whole, which will have a consequent positive economic impact.