The government of Antigua and Barbuda is pressing ahead with the implementation of number portability, and in particular mobile number portability (MNP), with the news that the lower chamber of the House of Parliament has approved an amendment to the Telecommunications Act of 2018 – as put forward by the telecoms minister Melford Nicholas – that will usher in the new regime, allowing residents to keep their old number when switching service provider.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in September this year regional telecoms regulator the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) set a deadline to launch Local Number Portability (LNP) services in all member states – Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – as 19 November 2018. Whilst Antigua and Barbuda is not a full ECTEL member, it nonetheless maintains observer status with the regional body. As such, the government is keen to move ahead with the plan and sees the amendment as ‘a very small but important step’ to achieve it. ‘People have become wedded to a particular telephone number, it is a part of their own unique identity, be it a business or an individual. The amendment is merely to give the government and the Ministry of Telecommunications the ability to forge ahead with a particular feature that will be required to ensure that mobile number portability can take place in our domestic market,’ Nicholas said.
Local press note that the government had previously gone on record as saying that the commercial viability of state-owned telco Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) could be jeopardised, once the proposed telecommunications bill is put in force. Nevertheless, government ministers have seemingly lined up behind Nicholas’ amendment which will now be forwarded to the Senate for approval.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, MNP has been on ECTEL’s drawing board for several years and in November 2015 the regulator announced its intention to launch it across the region ‘before the end of 2016’. To this end, it held an initial comments period on the proposals in December 2015-January 2016, but plans were delayed. In March 2017 ECTEL said it was drawing up a detailed project work plan and commitment from providers to implement MNP in all member states that year, but again the trail went cold until the September 2018 announcement.