News

Gov't extends deadline for number portability

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter henryb@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, June 14, 2014    

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THE Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining has delayed the introduction of number portability by a further 12 months, junior minister Julian Robinson said Wednesday.

However, Robinson admitted that the ministry would still have a challenge meeting next May's deadline, as one of the providers, LIME, has indicated that they would only be ready with mobile portability by that time, while the others -- Digicel and FLOW -- are insisting that they will not go ahead unless it is full mobility.

He also explained that LIME has indicated that, because of its legacy systems, it is more challenging for them to implement number portability.

Robinson did not give a reason for this 12-month delay although, from his statement on the issue, he seemed to be suggesting that LIME's failure to get the go- ahead for landline portability was the main impediment.

"Yes, we had a projected timeframe of May this year, which clearly will not be met," he told the House, as he made his contribution to the annual sectoral debate. However, Robinson and senior portfolio minister, Phillip Paulwell, now seem to have made a habit of announcing delays in the introduction of the service.

Paulwell had promised that the service would be effected by December 2012, then revised it to the end of 2013 and the end of May 2014. Robinson had already given March 2014 and revised to December 2014 and now May 15 next year.

This has led Opposition spokesman on ICT and Digital Economy Dr Andrew Wheatley to describe the Government's delays as "unacceptable".

"One is forced to question if number portability will be implemented at all," Dr Wheatley reacted. "There is an obvious disconnect between both ministers' understanding of what is required to make number portability a reality, and what is being pitched to the Jamaican people".

But Robinson explained on Wednesday that the ministry is now working towards May of next year, and has done the necessary background work, in terms of the rules, the issuing of the instructions for the drafting of the bill to be ready by then.

He said that Digicel and Flow have received the necessary internal approvals and budget to implement number portability as planned for the new deadline of May next year, and the ministry has been working towards full number portability by then.

However, LIME has indicated that they would only be ready with mobile portability by that time.

Mobile portability allows the user to move from one of the two carriers to the other, while fixed portability means taking a fixed-line phone from one provider to the other.

"LIME has not been able to indicate to us when it will be ready for full portability. And it has indicated that because of its legacy systems, it is more challenging for them to implement number portability," Robinson explained.

"Based on this scenario, we are now examining the options to ensure that we can have a timely implementation," he concluded.

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