The ability to switch telecommunications service providers and keep one’s mobile number is soon to become the standard in Antigua & Barbuda.
This is according to Minister of Telecommun-ications Melford Nicholas who said that the capacity to do this, referred to as number portability, will be “the most powerful agent” in forcing carriers to price their services fairly.
While making his contribution to the 2017 Budget Debate in Parliament on Wednesday Nicholas said, “What number portability means is that if a carrier decides to raise rates on me with the full knowledge that there is a cost associated with me giving up that number and getting another operator … I can now take that number to another carrier.”
The minister said the change was part of the Telecommunications Bill 2017 which would be passed some time this year. He argued that a customer would no longer be forced to cope with a hike in rates simply because it would be too troublesome and even costly to switch carriers and mobile numbers.
“Under the new Telecommunications Bill, the mobile number belongs to the consumer and not the carrier,” he said.
The minister also charged that carriers that raise their rates on the argument of the heightening of operational costs due to inflation were not being truthful.
“We have heard through the prime minister’s presentation – and it can be proven – that inflation has remained around the zero per cent marker, and in the last months it has dipped below and is now in negative territory.
“So when a carrier asserts the fact that they want to raise rates at 5 and 7 per cent on the consumer because their costs have changed, to my mind that is a recipe for disaster for them in a competitive environment,” Nicholas said.
Mobile number portability exists and is implemented across the globe. In Europe, customers wishing to transfer their numbers would have to contact the new carrier which would then send a number portability request (NPR) to the current carrier.
In Antigua & Barbuda, the three mobile service providers are FLOW, Digicel and Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) Telecoms.