NUMBER PORTABILITY FOR MOBILES A REALITY

Fixed lines still waiting

FULL number portability - the right to keep your telephone number when you switch operators - has been a reality at Slovakia's two mobile phone operators since the beginning of June.
However, fixed line customers won't receive that same right until the last quarter of this year, at the earliest.
The Slovak Spectator asked the two mobile operators and three representatives from the fixed line market about their perception of number portability, how it really benefits customers and whether Slovaks have access to the same services as customers in western countries.

FULL number portability - the right to keep your telephone number when you switch operators - has been a reality at Slovakia's two mobile phone operators since the beginning of June.

However, fixed line customers won't receive that same right until the last quarter of this year, at the earliest.

The Slovak Spectator asked the two mobile operators and three representatives from the fixed line market about their perception of number portability, how it really benefits customers and whether Slovaks have access to the same services as customers in western countries.

Providing insight for the mobile operators were Juraj Droba, director of corporate affairs at T-Mobile Slovensko, and Peter Tóth, corporate affairs manager of Orange Slovensko. Alternative telecom operators were represented by Ivan Leščák, strategy and regulatory director of GTS Nextra, and David Bečvář, chief executive officer of Dial Telecom. Ján Kondáš, director for communications at Slovak Telekom, represented the fixed line giant, which previously held a monopoly on the Slovak market. The answers are as follows:

Juraj Droba: Mobile number portability makes the mobile market even more competitive. Keeping the number could in some cases be the only incentive for unhappy Orange customers not to switch to T-Mobile. We took the issue of MNP very seriously, as documented also by our being the only operator to provide so-called "voice notification" when the calling party exits the home network. This is a very fair and transparent approach towards customers.


Peter Tóth: We have no experience with number portability, so any predictions would more or less be speculation. But international benchmarks from countries where portability is in effect indicate this service had no major impact on customer migration.


Ján Kondáš: Slovak Telekom is technically ready to provide number portability services, as should all players on the market. The main condition for that is an agreement on joint technical solutions that will ensure the mutual exchange of information necessary to secure correct re-direction of calls to the ported numbers from all networks. The operators should also agree on communication over customers' applications to port the number. Slovak Telekom is currently working on these issues, and expects the service to be ready by the last quarter of 2006.


David Bečvář: Number portability a reality? Well, I do not know about that. Slovak Telekom has still not transferred the numbers it was requested to port. The main barrier is the organisation of the [Telecommunications Bureau]. Portability brings a Slovak customer the same benefits as any customer in a developed country - the ability to continue to be reached by the friends, loved ones, business partners and tax offices that have that number.


Ivan Leščák: Number portability in the fixed line market makes sense when an alternative fixed line functions through renting a local loop from the previous [dominant] operator. However, Slovak Telekom has not yet been obliged to offer competitors local loops for cost-oriented prices.

As a result, alternative operators are currently not able to offer customers reasonably priced fixed lines. The clients of alternative fixed line operators are primarily business customers able to generate an operation large enough to cover the cost of building an independent network, for example, to a business centre.

Therefore, due to the current state of the fixed line market, number portability won't have any significant effect. It would make sense if certain regulations were adopted beforehand.

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