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Coup de grace for SA cellphone industry

It is official - from 10 November this year, cellphone users in South Africa can "cross floor", meaning switch from one network to another without losing their number. The programme of the public awareness campaigns on number portability was launched yesterday, Wednesday 1 November 2006, in Sandton, Johannesburg, by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

In his introductory remarks, ICASA chairperson Paris Mashile said: "This initiative is for the benefit of the telecommunications sector, specifically for the consumers accessing telephone services. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Authority and the mobile operators to initiate public awareness campaigns. We do note with glee that some mobile operators have started with advertisements and this should be encouraged.

Inform the public

"The primary purpose of these campaigns is to inform the public on what mobile number portability is about and how and when they can exercise their right to participate in the process."

Vodacom was represented at the event by Pakamile Pongwana, responsible for government relations and regulatory affairs. MTN sent its group executive legal and regulatory affairs Nkateko Nyoka. The two executives were flanked by Cell C executive head of regulatory affairs Karabo Motlana.

Clive Fagan, GM of Number Portability Company, also attended the event.

Work perfectly

Trials, testing and evaluations conducted in the past three weeks have indicated that come 10 November, the number portability process will work perfectly.

"We have reached the end of the road and we are just waiting for this process to happen in the market place. Where there is no effective competition, there is no discerning way for the consumer to get value for his money," Mashile said, visibly content and satisfied.

"This is a welcome Christmas present for all consumers and I hope that they will take full advantage of these changes to freely exercise their right, which is if they are not satisfied with a particular service, they can choose whatever they want."

Massive campaign

From next week, ICASA tends to embark on a massive advertising campaign, which includes:

  1. Media alert: radio and TV
  2. Pamphlets and posters to be distributed in public places like libraries and post offices to communicate the mobile number portability
  3. Face-to-face meetings with urban and rural organisations
  4. Messages on mobile number portability will also printed in the newspapers.

Asked to comment, Cell C executive head of corporate communications Vanashree Pillay told Bizcommunity.com: "We are excited about this process, which I firmly believe will level the playing field in the industry. As a network that gives customers best value for their money, Cell C is confident that many consumers will not hesitate to join it."

Pillay also said that Cell C has currently 2.9 million customers, according to figures released at the end of June this year.

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to Bizcommunity.com as a senior news writer.

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