Numberporting. It sounds so simple.
In the Netherlands there are about two million people who change telecom providers every year. That’s very simple. When your subscription expires and you see a good deal elsewhere, you simply arrange a new subscription with another provider and indicate that you would like to keep your number. This is very useful for your existing contacts.
As simple as it may seem, a lot has to be done behind the scenes to make it possible for you to take your number from one provider to another.
How number porting works
All providers have their own administration and range of numbers they can issue. For example, Vodafone’s numbers start with 55 by default. In this way, the switchboard knows exactly to which provider they need to forward an incoming call.
Of course, this won’t work if a number has been taken over by another provider. This is why porting numbers only works if there is a central platform on which all providers can pass on their changes. When a call comes in, it is first checked whether the number appears in the list of exceptions. If this is not the case, it will still be routed to the right provider based on the number.
Central platform needed
Developing such a central platform is no easy task. There are only a few companies worldwide that can set up such an environment and Referit is one of them. Project manager Patty de Haan explains: “In the Netherlands, number porting is a standard service, but that is not the case everywhere. There are about 200 countries in the world and about half of them have porting facilities, the other half have not yet set up a platform to which providers can connect. It’s only a matter of time before that happens.
More and more countries are opting for number porting
I keep a close eye on developments in this area. If I notice that something is going on in a country, I try to make contact to find out if there is interest in our platform. It is often a long process to get to the right people at the table. Usually there is a tender that you can subscribe to. Such a process can take up to a year. There are only 6 or 7 serious IT companies that specialize in number porting, so we always have to take on the usual suspects. It’s a small world and everyone knows each other.
Referit actually ended up in the industry by accident. The first platform for which we provided the technology was the Channel Islands. By now, 15 countries are using solutions we have realized, including Trinidad, Jamaica, Ireland, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Panama”.
All providers on board?!
What does it take to make such a platform work? Technical expert Michel de Gronckel explains: “In order for this solution to work, all the national providers have to participate. It’s often quite a process before everyone else does. Especially the big, established names don’t always like it. They don’t always immediately see the benefits or want to change the status quo. Moreover, they often have a lot of legacy systems which makes it difficult for them to connect to another new system.
From tender to platform
Once we have won the tender, it will take another 9 months or so to get the new platform up and running. A lot needs to be done in that time. In a tender, only global starting points and preconditions are laid down. In the implementation phase, we make agreements about the details such as the validation process and which data must be supplied. There are major local differences. In some countries, a simple code is sufficient to validate the transaction, while other countries require complete documents to be scanned, sent and checked. This makes it a lot more complex, but also more interesting for us, we like a challenge.
The way of working is also different. In Western countries, it is very common to meet with all operators to discuss exactly how the process should be set up. In African countries you see that the government wants to keep more control and wants to keep the decision making internal.
Also for providers
At Referit we not only deliver solutions on a national level, but also for providers. For example, we created a gateway for ATL Communications, one of the most important players in the American telecom market. In the US the process is set up differently than elsewhere in the world. For example, you can’t have numbers transferred from one state to another, but you can have your mobile number converted into a landline number and vice versa. Furthermore, the porting process is so complex that small operators can hardly meet all the guidelines.
ATL therefore wanted to offer their customers a SaaS solution with which they could easily pass on the changes to the central portals.
Want to know more?
Feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to tell you more about it! Call our colleague Patty de Haan on 06 13224794 or Michel de Gronckel on 06 13139902.