PCC, solon throw support behind bill on mobile number portability

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and a senator have given their strong backing on mobile number portability (MNP), which allows mobile phone users to keep their contact numbers whenever they switch telcos.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (left) presiding the hearing on mobile number portability

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (left) presiding the hearing on mobile number portability

In a statement, the PCC said it is pushing for the introduction of MNP to give consumers the power of choice when faced with poor service from their telecommunications provider.

The agency noted that MNP is an option that has long been available in many countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

“One of the benefits of competition is to have choices, and mobile number portability is a clear example of having a choice in telco service without having to give up one’s long held numbers,” PCC chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan stated.

“In this age when a person’s phone number is considered part of one’s identity, changing numbers can sometimes mean lost opportunities, access, or connections. If MNP is in place, a person can retain one’s number without having to worry about that,” he added.

MNP can also deter scams, one version of which is where strangers who “inherit” your old number prey on your contacts who were not informed of your switch to a new telecom provider, the competition watchdog said.

At present, the PCC said mobile number retention is not available among telco providers, which may compel subscribers to hold on to a provider despite poor service.

“Consumers should want to stay in a network because of good service and not just because they want to keep their longstanding numbers. When disgruntled consumers want to bolt to a new or another network provider, having MNP in place means people are not prisoners of the network simply because they want to keep their digits,” Balisacan said.

“MNP will remove a huge obstacle to switching from one service provider to another, perhaps even to a new one, which then opens the telco market to more competition” he added.

The PCC’s renewed call for MNP comes on the heels of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s indictment of the Philippines’ Internet service as “no good.”

In an October 25 speech at the De La Salle Manila campus, Ma, co-founder of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, said the government and the private sector should look for ways to improve Internet service in the Philippines.

PCC pushed for the inclusion of the MNP system in Senate Bill No. 1237 during a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 7, by the Committee on Economic Affairs.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, said during the panel’s first hearing on the bill that consumers should the freedom to easily switch network providers while retaining one’s mobile number.

“Our phone numbers is already an extension of people’s lives. We use them to communicate and synergize. This is a straightforward and exciting bill that will empower consumers,” said Gatchalian.

In 2008 the National Telecommunications Communications (NTC) attempted to pursue a mobile number portability scheme in the market, but it was shelved mainly because of the high costs of porting mobile numbers. It also begged the question as to who would shoulder the costs.

However, it was revealed during hearing that technological advancements since then may have lowered the cost of mobile portability operations, making it essentially viable.

“Our technology has come a long way since 2008. The prices of the software we need to operate the porting of mobile numbers have gone down. There is still a possibility that consumers may shoulder some of the costs, but we are currently consolidating studies and frameworks to make it completely free for all subscribers,” Gatchalian said.

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