Johannesburg - AltX-listed Vox Telecoms said on Thursday that the
announcement by the Independent Communications Authority of South
Africa (Icasa) that local number portability was going live would help
Vox be more competitive. Number portability allows users to switch from
Telkom while retaining their phone number.
CEO Tony van Marken said his company had been stifled in its
fixed-line business before as customers have been loath to lose their
"Up until now we could show them a solid business case
whereby they would save 20% by switching to us for fixed-line services
- so the business decision was easy. But if they have to change their
phone number it's inconvenient and most would not be willing to
switch," he said.
"But now with local number portability going live we expect more success going forward."
Icasa has announced local number portability will be available
from April 26. Mobile number portability is already active in South
Africa, allowing subscribers to switch between cellular network
providers without having to change their number. The same is now true
for fixed-line numbers.
"We see the introduction [of local number portability] as
quite a big step forward in SA's telecommunications environment," said Van Marken.
"This will have a more positive impact on lower prices than
the drop in interconnect in many respects. It allows for complete
freedom of movement between networks and this will drive competition
and lower prices," he added.
Managing director of World Wide Worx Strategy, Steven
Ambrose, said that the impact of local number portability might not be
"Number portability for mobile was a big non-event. We
predicted that about 8% of subscribers would change networks as a
result of being able to keep their number. The real number turned out
to be closer to 1%," he said.
"The big issue in SA is that there is actually no comparable
service to Telkom. Only Telkom can physically bring a cable into your
premises. So for VoIP (voice over IP) services you need fibre or
Telkom," he added.
"Fibre from other providers [not Telkom] is coming, but it's focused on large corporates and business initially."
"Vox plays in this space and will be able to gain some smaller
corporate business, but this is highly competitive and there is a very
small pool of potential customers," said Ambrose.
"I don't believe it [local number portability] will be a big
driver of cost either, because that only happens if more customers are
using VoIP, and that relies on a solid broadband connection, which
again means dealing with Telkom for ADSL. If Neotel had really played
the game and had the infrastructure required and were ready to compete
then it would be a different story. But they aren't."